[This fragment is available in an audio version.]

I want to share a project I’ve been helping out with for the last couple of years; the False Creek Friends Society. I haven’t wanted to write about it before now because it was just big-ideas talk. But there’s some science starting up and if you’re nearby you might want to get involved.

False Creek

Courtesy of OpenStreetMap.

What’s a “False Creek”? · Wikipedia has the facts. It’s a little piece of the Pacific stabbing into the belly of Vancouver, surrounded by condos, marinas, a cement maker, museums, festivals, Granville Island, and a really nice seawall. I’m writing this in our family boat, my home office several days a week, tied up at one of those marinas. I bicycle on the seawall. It’s a unique, special place and I care a lot about it.

View of Eastern False creek

Near the east end. There are human and legal stories to be told about all those tied-up boats, in another entry.

Problems · I feel a pretty deep connection with False Creek and can’t help noticing a few real problems:

  1. The quality of the water; there are regular no-swim notices from the Health people. There also may be industrial-chemical pollutants left from when it was surrounded by sawmills and factories. But, we don’t actually know much about the nature of the problems. The science just hasn’t been done.

  2. False Creek contains several locations that were central to the lives of the peoples of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh nations that our ancestors stole the territory from. But there are few manifestations of Indigenous culture to be seen.

  3. It’s not a place, it’s a hole in the map with lots of interesting stuff around it.

Foggy day on False Creek

A foggy day under the Burrard bridge.

What are Friends for? · I was contacted in late 2020 by Zaida Schneider, retired journalist and mariner, who mostly lives in his lovely tugboat at another of the marinas, and like me cares about the place. Since then, we’ve talked to a whole lot of people and registered a nonprofit and assembled a seven-strong Board of Directors (I’m one) and launched collaborations. What, exactly, are we trying to achieve?

Well, we have a tactical To-Do List. I strongly suggest that if you are in the neighborhood, you read it. But, we have bigger ideas.

Spring flowers beside False Creek

A spring morning.

How about a park? Canada has National Parks, Vancouver has lots of urban parks, and the province of BC has marine parks. We even have a National Urban Park.

Those Marine Parks are just fabulous, lovely places, but they’re (by design) a long way from where everybody is and to enjoy them, you have to be well-off enough to access a boat.

Why shouldn’t Canada have a National Urban Marine Park, and why shouldn’t it be False Creek, where a half-million people can walk to it and it’s an easy trip for another 2½ million?

Canada has Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas, which tend to be remote and fairly unspoiled. You’ll never unspoil False Creek, but we could protect it from further damage and heal it where it’s diseased, and prove that a city can live in better harmony with the earth that upholds it and the water that surrounds it. Vancouver has a large Indigenous population; why shouldn’t they lead the protection and conservation?

I would totally love for this to be a hot-spot for Indigenous culture and employment. And, after all, Vancouver is a tourist town, we could educate and delight not only the locals but people from everywhere.

There’s a little problem in that apparently there was never actually an Indigenous-language name for the whole of False Creek. But, you know, that could be fixed.

View of False Creek looking east

Big clouds over the condo towers.

Latest news · Starting in spring, we worked with the Hakai Institute on their Light-Trap program, gathering data on what crustaceans are living under the not-terribly-clear waters of False Creek. We think Dungeness crab may be coming back.

In September, there’s a BioBlitz, sort of the Marine-Biologist equivalent of a hackathon, where in the course of a few days scientists try to build a snapshot inventory of what’s living here.

Come on down! · Lots more projects are brewing. If you’re one of the very many people who either live in sight of False Creek or visit regularly, and our dream of making it something special resonates with you, come out for one of these projects and maybe join the Society!

And anyhow, if you’re in a place where you can visit False Creek, you should do that. And if you’re planning a visit to Vancouver, do drop by. It’s just a really good place. But it could be so much better.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: John Cowan (Jul 31 2022, at 05:56)

You can't just "fix the name". Multiple languages are involved, plus the issue that the whole of the creek (British English for "arm of the sea"[*]) didn't have a single name. So you stick with the English name to avoid holy wars. "Canada" is a French borrowing from the extinct Laurentian Iroquois language, in which it meant "town, village"; there never was a word in any Canadian language for the whole present area. (Cartier referred to Laurentian territory as "le pays du canadas", which then spread along with the term "Canadas" to mean both Upper and Lower Canada.

[*] The North American reapplication of "creek" began around Chesapeake Bay, where many apparent arms of the sea turned out to be non-tidal or semi-tidal small rivers flowing into it. Antietam Creek, for example, became well-known when a significant battle of the U.S. Civil War was fought there. There are over 750 named creeks in Maryland alone, some flowing directly into the bay, others not.


From: Rob Sayre (Jul 31 2022, at 16:18)

It's true that "creek" originally meant "narrow inlet in a coastline", but then it wouldn't be "false". I think they're using the later definitions here.

At least Vancouver is not alone. For example, there is no river in Rio de Janeiro.


From: Tim (Aug 03 2022, at 10:31)

Hey John, we could too fix the name. There are loads of Indigenous people around here and their languages are familially related, and why couldn’t they get together and agree on a new name for the place?

(While we’re at it, why don’t we fix “British Columbia” too?)


From: Aline (Aug 18 2022, at 17:10)

Curious! From a geographical perspective, it seems like the name "False Creek" was given by George Henry Richards during his cartographic survey of the shores in 1856. He imagined he was going up a creek, when he realized it was not a creek, but an inlet, hence the name "false" creek, ha-ha. Which, technically, is correct; perhaps not culturally :(

In my searches, I found that the Coast Salish Peoples actually refer to the inlet as "Snauq". Is that right? Sounds much nicer!


From: Tim (Aug 18 2022, at 17:22)

Hey Aline, Snauq (or Senakw) apparently referred to a sandbar at the entrance to False Creek - I’ve been told by a member of the Squamish Nation that there was never an Indigenous name for the whole thing. Senakw is now being used for a Squamish-led property development called Sen̓áḵw, see senakw.com


From: Elizabeth Vander Zaag (Nov 08 2022, at 16:55)

I live on False Creek and I am appalled at the grossness of the behaviour of the boat dwellers in the creek. I have seen everything thrown into that water. It is disgusting.

If we have any respect for the riparian environment lets start by adding items other than fuel, and limited toxins to the list of banned items from being thrown into the waters.

The other problem we have is that there is no one to call if there is a huge noise problem. A night club like boat event that happened at least once a week this summer , dogs left alone on a boat and barking all day, are among the noise complaints that we have tried to contact authorities about. We get the run around, Coast Guard to Vancouver City Police, it really seems optional as to who will deal with the situation.

If we can make this creek which has so many people walking beside it something that is not so toxic ...that would be amazing. I have seen what I think is your boat"friends of false creek" parked at the Heather civic Marina and i have seen it in the creek as well. I also have a slip in that marina. I would love to chat with you some day about improvements to the creek.


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July 27, 2022
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