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Horses, motors and perambulators: A clash of road enthusiasts in Stanley Park

November 2, 2014

From the earliest days of settlement in the lower mainland the most pressing desire of settlers was for more and better roads. 
In the first decades of the 20th century It was a need recognized and exploited by "good roads" organizations such as the Pacific Highway Association, which also served recreational motoring, business and industry.
There were times, however, when there was some push-back at the demands of the growing number of motorists for road improvements.
Frederick Coate Wade - Vancouver Archives photo

Frederick Coate Wade, who as Agent-General for British Columbia in London,  appeared in Sam Hill’s motion picture "The Sacred Faith of a Scrap of Paper," was in 1910 at the forefront of opposition to better roads in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

It was a clash of interests still being played out, and is often the case, some curious alliances are formed.

Shall The Park Be Ruined Forever?

1910 03 19 The Vancouver World Page 11910 03 Stanley Park cedar chopped for roadSuch was the bold headline on page one of the Vancouver World of March 19, 1910.

Under the sub headline "Appalling Destruction," appeared the following "news" report:

"Sixty-two trees, varying from thirty to fifty inches in diameter, and, worst of all, a fine cedar, almost thirty feet in circumference, have already fallen in Stanley Park that a broad unbeautiful road may be constructed from Second Beach to Prospect Point.

And the axe is still working destruction among magnificent timber which it would take centuries to replace.

For, notwithstanding the united protest of the press of the city, the Park Commissioners have not paused for a moment and unless do pause this irrevocable damage will continue.”

. . .
It is not merely that the road has been widened, thus destroying its distinctive beauty, but the picturesque curves that gave it its charm have been flattened or straightened in order that auto chauffeurs may see a long distance ahead of them and rush over it in greater safety at a speed which ought to be prohibited.

The road, in fact,now looks like a thoroughfare driven through a raw subdivision."


Map of Stanley Park - 1911 - Published by Vancouver Board of Park CommissionersMap of Stanley Park, 1911 

will open on separate page.

FN Trites - Realtor - MotoristRealtors were often auto enthusiasts, perhaps having to do with the marketing of far-flung subdivisions.  At right, a typical caricature of the time, depicts FN Trites, highway and new subdivision.


Seizing higher ground, park commissioner AE Lees slapped back on the class issue, chastising FC Wade for his “selfish” take on the subject, looking at it solely

"from the standpoint of an expert horseman, who adds zest to his ride by driving through narrow roads with sharp turns."  

"The park commissioners, however, have to look farther than that. They must think of pedestrians and perambulators, women and children."

Lees deftly puts in mind the danger of an approaching horse or auto, stating that the new road would permit of a fenced off path.

All people have a mix of interests, and sometimes favor one set more than another, or can be summoned to arms by opposing sides.
A few years later, highway enthusiasts were at the forefront of opposition to the cutting down of the Green Timbers forest, one of the greatest tourist attractions along the entire length of the international Pacific Highway.
One wonders what the average reader thought of the solitary protest of Charles F Green against the weighty procession of first class automobiles streaming through the park in August 1913.

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