I grew up in Vancouver, in fact, I practically grew up in Stanley Park, the 1000 acre park that sits smack dab in the middle of the city. It used to have a zoo (which is gone), now has an aquarium, a miniature train, a beautiful rose garden, an outdoor theatre, a cricket pitch, ball diamonds, miles of seawall and other wonderful things too numerous to mention.
When I was a kid, we came to Stanley Park almost every week to have a picnic with the family. We'd go to the petting zoo, squirm in the reptile house, laugh as hard as the monkeys, pinch our noses at the smell of the penguins and lean over the fence to get a closer look at the sleeping polar bears.
But as I grew older, the park changed for me. It became a refuge, the trails criss-crossing its hundreds of acres of old growth forest a respite from the heat in the summer and a place to hike in relative dryness in the very rainy winters. The beaches along the seawall were where I sat at least once a week, listening to the seagulls, the soft whoosh of the waves, and feeling the heat of the sand on my bare feet. I've hiked every yard of those trails, have walked the seawall sometimes two or three times a week, have sat on the beach almost every week for the past 15 years.
And now my refuge is damaged, damaged so badly that it will probably be at least a generation before it's back to its old self, damaged so badly that the seawall may be closed for a year for repairs, damaged so badly that they're borrowing forest workers from one of our biggest forest companies to fall the thousands of toppled trees and will have to use helicopters to get the biggest ones out. There will be huge holes in the once over-arching canopy of green, the birds will lose their homes, the coyotes and skunks and raccoons will have to find new places to hide from the hikers.
And I'm broken-hearted.
I know every inch of the park, every large and small path. I know where the ducks like to winter, I know where the nurse logs nurture new growth and the oldest of old cedars hide. And it's never going to be the same. I feel as if I've lost a little bit of myself -