The Anmore Concept
The Original Anmore Concept
(Thanks to Hal Weinberg, Mayor for allowing us to post this on the Anmore Times web site.)
Everyone talks about the “Anmore Concept”. I thought it would be interesting to see the original. I wrote the Anmore Concept in 1985, with the help of Bob Hunter (the first President of Greenpeace) who lived in Anmore at the time but died in 2006. We wrote this on a stormy weekend night during the fight to have Anmore incorporated. I was the director of Electoral Area B at the time and Anmore was an unincorporated part of that Area. I searched high and low for a copy of the original Anmore Concept, and thought it had been lost forever, but I found it amongst some ancient archives in the bowls of the Anmore Hall.
The Anmore Concept (1987)
Anmore Valley, a small, pristine region nestled between the lower slopes of Eagle Mountain and the east shore of Indian Arm, north of Burrard Inlet, has managed to retain its rural character despite the thrust of urban development in the northeast sector of Greater Vancouver, the last remaining virtually untouched area within an hour’s drive of downtown Vancouver.
Had the CPR not run a spur line from Port Moody to Granville Island before the turn of the century, leading inadvertently to the growth of the Port of Vancouver, this area might well have been the first, not the last, to be transformed into row upon row of suburban housing. Now, however, the heat is on. Up to the very border of Anmore, on the south, the east and the west, suburban encroachment is a fact of life. Developments now underway, sponsored by both the provincial government and Port Moody, foresee as many as possibly 3000 homes being erected within the next decade. How long can Anmore and its original core, Ioco, retain their uniquely rural nature on the very edge of a vast metropolitan area?
To date no one has succeeded. Perhaps we can. Probably no other area so close to the heart of a major Canadian city enjoys the features that Anmore and Ioco do now. Not only are there lakes such as Buntzen and Sasamat, but residents also enjoy spectacular Belcarra Regional Park. There is horseback riding, camping, canoeing, recreational diving, fishing, a network of hiking trails, archeological sites, streams too numerous to mention, and access to beautiful Indian Arm. Best of all, from the point of view of the residents, may of whom are second and third generation families, there are only 1000 people living in this 10,000 acre paradise.
Apart from the townsite of Ioco, which dates back to 1912, none of the rest of the region has sewage, garbage pickup, streetlights or city water. And no one wants any of these facilities, since these would inevitably mean (a) higher taxes, (b) increased government meddling in day to day affairs and (c) less direct control over such critical matters as zoning and long-range land use. What we have now is a semi-wilderness lifestyle that suits everybody here perfectly. We are independent, self-sufficient and willing to assume responsibility for our own lives, and, moreover, we have a concept of a way of life which permits us to enjoy the best of both worlds – rural, in the sense that we can blend into the environment in which we find ourselves, rather than being surrounded by townhouses and condominiums, yet urban in the sense that we are part of the economy of the Greater Vancouver area through the contributions we make to its business, social and esthetic well-being.
We call it the “Anmore Concept”
What we have in Anmore at the moment is a rare and wonderful opportunity which should be retained as an option for those who wish to raise their children in a non-suburban setting, yet are not isolated from the mainstream of urban culture. In an era when the concept of decentralization has captured the imagination of progressive planners throughout most of the world, we believe the Anmore concept epitomizes both the new ideal of Small-Is-Beautiful and the tradition of grassroots community involvement and self-control. We believe, moreover, that by maintaining our present balance of small-scale, intimate local government and wilderness environment, we can serve the surrounding communities as guardians of parkland and untrammeled natural environment almost unequalled in it’s variety, in the entire province, with, of course, a heritage to be enjoyed by all in the Lower Mainland.
Given the pressures for development, which have been building over the years, it is inevitable, in our view, that Anmore will sooner or later suffer the fact of amalgamation with Port Moody. Let’s not kid ourselves. This will lead to increased population densities, re-plotting of acreage into standard lots, the imposition of unwanted services, high taxes and, in general, the destruction of our current wilderness status. Our loss, in the long run, will be the that of everyone in the Greater Vancouver area who is currently free to enjoy this most SuperNatural of B.C. settings, within bike-riding or even hiking distance of their own homes.
As one of the older communities in the Lower Mainland, with a rich pioneering history of our own, we are certainly no bedroom suburbs. We grew in partnership with an industry, Imperial Oil, which established the first refinery on the West Coast in 1912 and have enjoyed a perhaps all to rare harmony with a company which not only provided the original economic base for the community, but has also left us with a legacy of a concern for the local environment and its residents, many of whom are the descendants of the first refinery workers to arrive on these shores.
It is a balanced relationship, in which both industry and the surrounding community have served each other well—and which, given our turbulent times, we consider a priceless asset. We would not want to see it disturbed. The Anmore Concept, in fact, involves recognition of the harmonious blend of industry, nature and community.
Finally, it is our considered and resolute belief that the only way to maintain this current idyllic balance is to take our rightful place as a municipality among equals, with the responsibilities, rights and obligations of municipal self-government. It is the only practical course of action open to use if we are to avoid being swallowed by our larger neighbor and being transformed into something other than what we want to be, ad are.
The Anmore Concept, simply, is the meshing of very old and very new ideals, of the past and the future, of nature and community. It is traditional in that we wish to preserve a ruggedly individual way of life. It is perhaps novel in that our wish is to chart a course that does not inevitably lead to bigness.
There is something else, quite important, that has to be considered here.
It is this: Until only very recently, Canadians have taken a fantastic rate of growth for granted. It was assumed that “progress” was not only inevitable, but also good, and that it depended entirely on more and more people arriving to share an amount of land that couldn’t change. Where there had been farms – as in Richmond and Delta – now there would be subdivisions. It was something that was bound to happen, like seasons changing.
Yet in the last decade, Canadians have entered a whole new demographic reality. Rather than expanding any longer, Canada’s population curve has begun, for the first time since Confederation, to point downward, or at least toward a state of balance.
It is no longer inevitable that a beautiful, natural region adjacent to a big city has to be gobbled up, subdivided, paved-over and manicured. There is, actually, no real need for the Greater Vancouver area to expand at all. With every expansion, congestion increases and nature is pushed a little further away from the core of the city. It is to the advantage of the people living downtown and in nearby municipalities to preserve a place like Anmore, if for no toner reason than that the might forests so beloved by Emily Carr can survive within a few hours’ driving somewhere besides Stanley Park and the upper slopes of Seymour, Grouse and Hollyburn.
To date, only the terrific depth and width of the eastern end of Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm, plus an odd lack of population density, have kept the suburbs fro spreading beyond the Barber Street subdivision on Ioco Road. These natural barriers are no longer enough. Some sort of political shape is needed now if the area, a unique jewel in the Greater Vancouver mosaic of lifestyles, is to be saved from homogenization. As one local with complained, if Port Moody was to succeed in its bid to grab both Ioco and Anmore, the resulting subdivision, with its fife-times-higher taxes, ought to be called – are you ready — Iomore.
For the until-now almost forgotten people living at this entranceway to Buntzen Lake, that is not actually a joke any more. As one irate Anmore resident put it in a letter to the editor of a local weekly: “We may be Anmorons, but we’re not idiots!”
Note: The Anmore Concept was written in 1985 when we were entering into negotiations with Port Moody, the GVRD and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, for incorporation of Anmore. Port Moody, Belcarra and Coquitlam, have since that time continued to work with Anmore and help in its planning, for the benefit of everyone in the Tri-City Area. No system remains completely static, except in death. Anmore has changed in the past 20 years, however, from the perspective of the ‘distant observer’, Anmore is still unique, and retains the essential characteristics of the original Anmore Concept.
The challenge now is how to allow change but maintain the idea.