ZYTARUK: Neat places in North Delta made childhood a blast

So let it be written…

As townhouse complexes and other residential and commercial developments continue to pop up around us it’s hard to keep track of all the changes.

We see a new tower going up on a street corner and might remember an old-timer’s homestead having been there, or perhaps a mom-and-pop candy store back when 25 cents would still get you all kinds of sugary treats, with change to spare.

Join me for a break from today’s hurly-burly to contemplate some largely forgotten points of interest in Surrey and North Delta, starting with the latter.

Really, is there any place neater than Burns Bog? It’s eight times larger than Stanley Park, and according to the Corporation of Delta’s website, it’s the "largest undeveloped urban land mass in North America."

Its First Nations name is Maqwum, but it was also known as Lorne Estate when the Marquis de Lorne, an early Governor General of Canada, owned it. The bog got its current name after Dominic Burns, of Burns Meats, bought it. He apparently wanted to set up a ranch, but the terrain was too squishy for that.

Ironically, after the provincial government, Delta, Metro Vancouver and the feds bought a big hunk of the bog from a private company in 2004 to preserve it for the public, they immediately posted signs along its edge telling us all to stay the heck out. I’m not talking about the nature reserve but rather that larger, mysterious part surrounded by highways,

But well before that purchase, there used to be a peat mining operation based at the bottom of 72nd Avenue. When I was a kid, back in the late ’70s/early ’80s, the bog was my stamping ground and my buddies and I would often hike deep into it and sometimes camp there.

If we got tired, we’d make certain to "get caught" by the peat factory workers to get a ride out of the bush and swamp on their tractors.

Did you know there are bark mulch roads and wooden plank trails crisscrossing through Burns Bog, as well as remnants of log cabins, and aluminum work sheds?

Narrow-gauge railway tracks run alongside the mulch roads, deep into the bog. I remember a long-abandoned little locomotive, waiting. Wonder if it’s still there.

It wasn’t functional back in my day. The engine wouldn’t get very far anyway as by now the trees growing up between the rails would be thick and sturdy indeed.

I remember seeing a sign in one of the worker’s sheds: Coffee five cents a cup. There was also this huge hovercraft thing, which I presume did the peat mining.

About a quarter of it was sticking out of a black water pond. I suspect it’s completely submerged by now.

Other than the bog, there was also plenty of cool stuff to do off River Road, upriver from Sunbury. Some might remember "The Horseshoe," a funny little part-asphalt, part cobblestone road where kids enjoyed riding their dirt bikes. On the other side of it, across River Road and down the gully to where McAdam Creek meets the Fraser, there used to be a brick factory.

This is not commonly known even among the oldest of old-timers. More than 100 years ago, the plant employed roughly 20 men and produced more than 25,000 bricks per day.

Today all that remains of it are a few nubs of pilings on the Fraser side of the train tracks and the odd red brick poking out of the creek bed.

Well, here I’ve run out of space and we haven’t yet explored Surrey. In next Thursday’s column, I’ll pick up where I left off and promise to reveal plenty of cool stuff about Surrey’s environs.

…So let it be done.

 

Tom Zytaruk can be reached via email at tzytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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