Arrested Development – Sturgeon Bank

Over the past century there have been many proposals to develop Sturgeon Bank for various uses. Projects included deep sea ports, landfills for garbage, airports and recreation areas. None of the developments got off the ground but it is interesting to see the vision that some people and organizations have had for the area over the years.

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The 1912 plan for Sturgeon Bank included rail and highway links as well as miles of dock space for shipping. City of Richmond Archives, accession 1264.

Probably the most ambitious of these proposals was put forward in 1912 by the Vancouver Harbour and Dock Extension Company. The plan included an enclosed deep sea port with six piers 1 1/2 miles long each, an enormous log pond, a direct highway link to New Westminster and a railway, complete with a five mile-long tunnel under Vancouver to the False Creek rail yards. The proposal was estimated to cost $30 Million.

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An artist’s conception of what the 1912 Sturgeon Bank Harbour development would have looked like. City of Richmond Archives, accession 1264.

A 1928 proposal suggested that Sturgeon Bank would be an ideal location for an airport featuring a large field for wheeled aircraft, two large enclosed seaplane basins, a pylon for mooring airships and a large terminal. Sea Island appears to remain undisturbed farmland.

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An artist’s conception from 1928 of the proposed Sturgeon Bank Aerial Depot shows a busy aerodrome with seaplane basins and airship mooring. City of Richmond Archives, photograph 1984 21 1.

Development proposals slowed down through the depression and war years but began again during the 1950s. In 1957 and 1958 proposals showed development on Sea Island as well as Lulu Island and for the first time included some green space.

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This 1957 proposal showed development of Sturgeon Bank on Lulu and Sea Islands with large commercial and industrial areas, docks on the North and South Arms and, for the first time, some recreational area with parks and a beach. City of Richmond Archives, Sturgeon Bank Reference File.

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This 1958 suggestion had room for airport expansion as well as industrial dock space. City of Richmond Archives, Industries Reference File.

In 1962 a project was brought forward by a company named Terra Nova Developments Ltd. suggesting that Sturgeon Bank would be an ideal place for a sanitary landfill. The concept would have had the twofold benefit of providing a place for disposal of household and industrial waste for the Lower Mainland and the creation of new land for use as industrial and/or recreational use.

1962

The 1962 proposal by Terra Nova Development Ltd. showed Sturgeon Bank plotted for land reclamation by use as a sanitary landfill. A deep sea shipping channel with turning basin is included in the drawing, allowing dock access for future industrial development. City of Richmond Archives, Industries Reference File.

The project would have seen covered barges filled with domestic refuse, hogfuel, millpond waste, demolition rubble harbour and river debris and other commercial tradewaste (excluding abattoir waste, distillery refuse and toxic chemicals) brought to the site at night and offloaded. The refuse would then be immediately covered with sand.

1962b

The 1962 landfill project would have resulted in land reclamation for the purposes suggested on this aerial photo. The permissions from the Departments of Fisheries, Transport and Public Works had all been granted for this proposal. City of Richmond Archives, Industries Reference File.

In 1968 an enormous, but far greener project was proposed which would have seen the area transformed into a recreational paradise. A 1000 boat marina on the Middle Arm, three “lakes” with swimming beaches, two golf courses, a rowing channel between the Middle and South Arms, a nature preserve, wharves and a hotel complex were all envisioned as possible in this ambitious development. Proximity to the airport would have provided easy access for tourists who wanted to take advantage of the facilities and enjoy the panoramic views afforded by the location.

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A photograph of an artist’s model pf the proposed recreational development of Sturgeon Bank is shown in this photo. City of Richmond Archives, accession 2003 18.

None of these development proposals took hold, mostly due to a perceived lack of economic return for the investment, but you can be sure that a walk along the west dyke would have looked very different than it does today if any of these projects had gone forward.

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