Imagine a Reconciliation Bridge in Vancouver

A vision for a repurposed Georgia Viaduct

by Common Ground’s publisher, Joseph Roberts

Walk for Reconciliation
Walk for Reconciliation, Vancouver’s ex-Georgia Viaduct, 2013

• New York City had a brilliant idea. They took a viaduct and repurposed it into what has become a hugely popular aerial greenway park. Two years ago, while visiting NYC, I was one of first five million who had the delightful experience of strolling across this amazing, recently opened public park in the sky.

It was true highlight of my trip… and it got me thinking. We could create our own uniquely creative version of New York’s High Line Park by repurposing our very own Georgia Viaduct. And we could name this new park the “Reconciliation Bridge,” in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation. A triple bottom line: good for reconciliation, good for the economy and good for the environment.

Imagine the unobstructed view of walking a couple of stories above street level through a well appointed parkway of indigenous grasses, flowers, plants and even trees! Their High Line Park provided ample benches and places to picnic, listen to music buskers, view local craft vendors, enjoy coffee, tea, and food offerings, read a book or do yoga. It was all there. And we can have it all here too if we catch the spirit of the Reconciliation Bridge and repurpose our sturdy Georgia Viaduct for the greater public good.

boardwalk, New York
New York’s new High Line Park ex-railway viaduct. (photo © Kobby Dagan)

We already have the infrastructure. Rather than spend millions to simply destroy it wasting the resources and energy that went into planning and building it – re-using offers a vastly superior alternative. It would also provide a stunning walkway to the proposed new Art Gallery a block away. Let’s save the Viaduct and transform it into a wondrous, aerial green parkway. Let’s demonstrate our commitment to reconciliation and create a legacy that will serve the next “seven generations.” Concrete can last a very long time, especially a structure built to support heavy trucks and cars. As a park, it will carry a much lighter load of pedestrian traffic and could easily last another 100 years. The Georgia Viaduct is an existing municipal asset that we can readily repurpose for recreational, garden, and cultural healing.

Vancouver’s Reconciliation Bridge would be world-class – a superb use of urban architecture, offering a huge open space for arts and culture to flourish as well as constituting a gateway to some of the most important cultural buildings in our city: The Queen Elizabeth Theatre, CBC, GM Place and BC Place. As a walkway connecting historic Chinatown and the Eastside with the downtown core, visitors and tourists will have a birds-eye view of historic Gastown to the north, Old Chinatown to the NE, Main Street to the east, Science World to the SE, beautiful False Creek to the south – with its shoreline parks – the Cambie and Granville Street bridges to the SW and a distinctly urban view straight east on Georgia Street leading to the proposed new Art Gallery at Cambie and Georgia, all with a subway station near by.

The creation of a Reconciliation Bridge is an incredible opportunity for Vancouver to do the right thing. We can transform the Georgia Viaduct into one of the jewels of the city and a world-class tourist destination. This would be one the best use of an existing city asset since the inception of Stanley Park. And as well as honouring our First Nations, it would also serve as a concrete act of healing past transgressions and reconciling Canada’s responsibility as well, ultimately leading us to an honourable, reconciled, culturally rich future. j

For further information contact Common Ground joseph@commonground.ca There is a public meeting being planned with all parties invited to discuss how to move forward with this vision for the Vancouver’s Reconciliation Bridge (location and time TBA)


A tale of two elevations

The High Line (also known as the High Line Park) is a 1.45-mile-long (2.33 km) aerial park in Manhattan built on an elevated section of an old New York Central Railroad viaduct called the West Side Line. You can see how the city’s problem was transformed into an open space benefiting residents as well as the tourist industry. Millions of visitors have walked the High Line since it opened in 2009.

Visit www.thehighline.org for a visual tour and imagine am aerial garden walking park called Reconciliation Bridge in Vancouver, an initiative that would upgrade our city, protect the views of existing residents and create a concrete example of our commitment to keeping our promises to our First Nations people. Our Walk for Reconciliation in 2013 drew 70,000 people to walk in the rain across our old Georgia Viaduct inspiring this new viaduct vision called the Reconciliation Bridge.

5 thoughts on “Imagine a Reconciliation Bridge in Vancouver

  1. comment via email :

    Joseph,
    This is a remarkable and valuable idea that should be put in front of the Mayor and City Council of Vancouver after some initial preparation. The history of how the High Line project developed in New York City might be helpful. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Line_%28New_York_City%29

    I would suggest first gathering a bit more feedback from Common Ground readers and from engaged citizens of Vancouver, particularly those who live nearby the Georgia Viaduct. Then you, Vancouver citizens and persons who took an active role in the Reconciliation process might see if there is an active champion on Vancouver City Council, at the federal level (e.g., Jody Wilson-Raybould) and at the MLA level. To support and build the campaign, an online petition might be helpful as well as an early appearance on CBC’s As It Happens. I note now that there is an active citizens group Friends of the Highline, which actually provides 98% of the annual budget!! http://www.thehighline.org/about

    I hope this is helpful.

    May peace and justice prevail,

    Fred (former City of Vancouver councillor)

  2. No offence, but have you lived in New York? The highline has unequivocally ruined that neighbourhood. Chelsea’s remaining working class small businesses, independent & LBGT restaurants/bars, and now public housing are under threat due to the highline. Talk to the business owners and residents, they oppose it. It has paved the way for Hudson Yards, which will be the death knell. Common Ground; this is shockingly poor reporting.

    • Hi Bryan and Danika, I’m just moderating the comments section and I don’t know much about this subject but it occurs to me that here in Vancouver there isn’t much of a neighbourhood under the viaduct to ruin as there must have been in New York…is that a fair statement? I encourage you to write to joseph@commonground.ca with your comments in addition to posting here. He’d be happy to discuss the idea with you I’m quite sure. Thank you!

  3. Joseph:
    That’s a great article you’ve written in the Common Grounds.I did that walk.I gave my nephew my clothing when I was soaked and wet.Every clothing from my jacket,shirts,shoes,socks,t’shirt etc.I told him to hold on that regarding his granny who attended Alert Bay Residential school.
    The real reason I am emailing you is this vision I had in year 2000.I had a vision of a massive building made out of log-cabin by a lake.This building consisted of logs and totem poles etc.Just like that building Coombs near Parksville.Here’s my vision.

    I was next to my uncle’s long house Mungo Martin.I sat there next to a totem pole selling my artwork.I was sweating in the hot summer weather next to the longhouse.I was approached by a small hummingbird.This humming bird danced in front of my face.There’s a rainbow effects glowing from the wings.I can hear the wings and the transparencies of it.The rainbow effects.
    All of a sudden I was that hummingbird now.I didn’t know what was happening to me and seeing myself there sweating with my eyes close meditating.I flew closer to look I was meditating.
    All of a sudden I hear sound coming from the longhouse.I hear voices and speeches of sort.I flew around the longhouse finding out what this was.I remember the ceiling had an opening to it.So I flew up the ceiling and seen the smoke.It was warm and smells of cedar.I flew in.
    I looked around and see all the people that are deceased my gggreatgrandfathers.I seen my uncles make a speech.There was Spruce Martin,Mungo Martin and Herbert Martin standing there holding a copper.That was passed to Mungo.
    Mungo walked forward and that copper has legs attached to it.Like a coffee table.Mungo opened it like a book and the totem pole stood up and longhouses stood up.It was a logcabin building.Mungo was passed a very large Loon Cup with water in it.He pours it in a dug out area and filled it with water.Thaw was the lake.There’s some model canoes to.
    As he spoke to the people.He gestured the future of our people will build this for every speakers and artist and craftsmen and dancers and every culture throughout this land to participate.This is the Holy Land of cultures.We have to see our people survive sharing our heritages throughout every nations and how cultures shall share their love within one another here.
    I flew more and more around seeing them with purification within their eyes.The love they have.I flew and went closer inside that copper-shape table.The whole world changed when I flew inside.I can smell the aroma of the wood burning and the smell of the cedar bark the dancers are wearing to.There’s so much magic and this is my vision.
    I flew up and took a last look and seeing them watching me leave.They’ve seen the spirit of the future to as I left.I flew and I was so exhausted and over excited.I flew I went to where I was.There I was sweating in the sun mediating.With that buzzing sound of the hummingbird dancing in front of me I woke up.That little hummingbird flew behind the longhouse and was gone.I got up and and wiped that sweat of my face.I was totally excited about this building and whenever they are going to build it.
    That “Reconciliation Bridge” sounds perfect.It’s a dream come true.Thank you Joseph for this and this will be the one-of-a-kind building for our future.Bless you my friend…

    Buster “Cat Thunder” Wilson
    Grandson of Spruce Martin,my mother’s father…
    http://www.sky-lite-stencils.bravepages.com

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