Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Price Progress?

A new bridge across the Fraser River opens this weekend. It’s a beautiful thing to see, with its great towers reaching towards the sky against a backdrop of British Columbia’s magnificent snow covered mountains. In the evening just as the sun sets, the rugged peaks of one of those mountains glows a brilliant golden hue. From that phenomenon, the Golden Ears peaks of Mount Blanshard get their name. The provincial park is also called Golden Ears Park and, as the gateway to this park and the north shore mountains, this lovely, modern bridge is to be named the Golden Ears Bridge.

It all sounds very romantic and it will certainly shave time off a trip to the north side of the Fraser Valley but, as with much of modern technology, there is a downside.

Last weekend, the papers had a story about a couple who live just under the bridge on the north shore of the Fraser. He is a fisherman and has lived there all his life—inherited the property from his parents. For some reason, because their land wasn’t needed for the approach to the bridge, they weren’t bought out as most of their neighbours were. So there they’ve sat during the whole two years of building the thing; putting up with the noise of construction; refuse falling from the bridge onto their property; and now it seems that the noise of the traffic overhead will be unbearable. Finally the government has decided to buy them out. One would hope it is at a fair market value but, personally, having owned and lived on property that became designated as a road, I don’t expect they’ll get the real worth of their land.

And it isn’t just this couple that will suffer because of the bridge. Upstream about four miles, a ferry has been the “highway” in this locale for many years. Although it is slow and there are always line-ups, it’s a lovely way to cross the river and made the trip rather special. Now there are over forty people who will have to find new jobs because the ferry will stop operating. The government is doing its best and some will retire but there are a few who will have to relocate to other towns to acquire the same type of job.

There has been a great deal of growth and development here as happens everywhere. I note that, as long as one is not personally affected, we are usually happy about it. I, for one, will enjoy crossing that beautiful bridge with its magnificent view. But at the same time, I know there are always those whose lives are totally disrupted by the march of time and progress. It does seem to be unavoidable.

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