Growing food forests

A North Shore gardener hopes to inspire a food forest in local neighbourhoods in her new book. Author Chris Chung takes food out of rigid backyard beds and into our residential yards in The Layered Edible Garden.

Rethinking traditional

Sitting on a shelf in Lynn Valley’s Maple Leaf Garden Centre there is a new resource available for gardeners looking to have a more natural and fruitful garden. Local gardening expert and writer Chris Chung has put much of the knowledge she generously shares on local gardening Facebook groups and on YouTube into her book The Layered Edible Garden and you might even find her nearby to answer some questions. While working as an instructor at the UBC Botanical Gardens a chance conversation led to inspiration and a passion to rethink home gardens. 

“Not everyone wants to convert a garden into a food garden because not everyone loves the aesthetic of traditional food gardens where everything is in rows and boxes,” she said. “I started looking at the idea of food forests. Why are we not incorporating some of these practices into traditional landscape horticulture? There are plants that are non-traditional yet practical, beautiful, functional and many of them are actually suited to the climate here.”

With that seed of inspiration, Chung began to tackle her own front garden 

“I thought, well, why don’t I just try this out myself? I mean, selling this idea is great, but until I try it and have a feel for it, is it doable? Does it actually look good? And so for the past few years, I have been practicing, mixing and matching plants in the garden.”

Mind shift

Residential gardening is having a bit of a change of identity, said Chung. As we become more environmentally conscious, more gardeners are interested in working with the ecology and weather we have, rather than creating a “picture perfect” garden from some other place. For some, this change may bring relief, and for others discomfort. 

“At the end of the day, you just want plants to be happy. When a plant that is not healthy and dislikes the conditions, as gardeners, we interpret that as, oh, we’re not good gardeners or it was my fault. But you know, sometimes it could just be a fussy plant. 

“But I think mixing and matching is a lot of fun. Food especially doesn’t need to just live in a food bed or a food section of the garden. That’s kind of like the big picture rethinking that I am trying to share with people.”

Chung hopes we can use the garden spaces we have more efficiently. Incorporating foods into the decorative portions. She thinks this is a better use of our time and resources. 

“The less we need to fight with our garden, the better. You can enjoy it. You can focus your energy, money and resources like water to growing things that are purposeful and may improve the impact on local creatures. It’s just so exciting because there are so many areas that we can all explore. I find every season I’m learning something new because I never thought about that but the garden grows and it does something wild and it presents neat stuff.”

Planting purposefully

For a diverse productive garden, Chung suggests we think beyond typical apple trees and rows of carrots as well as straying a bit further from the typical manicured garden aesthetic. 

“If you’re a homeowner, you may feel the need to match the look of your or might have limitations to the time you have to maintain it.  I think just being honest and realistic with yourself like you know what can I work on this. I am encouraging people to mix and match. There are no rules once you understand the conditions of your garden and what is going to thrive and work well.”

There are realities of North Vancouver that can present some challenges. The yards with cedars tend to be shaded and have acidic soil. The amount of sunlight varies greatly. There are many yards in Lynn Valley and Deep Cove where growing tomatoes can be very difficult, said Chung. 

“We have to be realistic and it may not be even apples. They need the sun, Certain berries want more sun. Most of the fruiting things want the sun. But I think that kind of forces us in a good way to explore what could grow here. And it may not be the big trees with lots of fruit that you can harvest in the summer. It could be smaller fruit that are adapted to part shade.”

Chung looks to cooler-temperature veggies and shrubs. 

“In this area, I always like talking about currants and black currants. They’re great and they do fruit well with partial sun. A lot of the Asian leafy veggies like the weather that we’re getting right now where it’s kind of cool and wet and damp. They grow beautifully.”

The resulting garden is a bit wilder and less formal. Her own garden reflects that. 

“It breaks some rules when it comes to how planting should look. I’ve got something tall here, something small there. I’m honestly just experimenting.  I learned something. Let’s not repeat it. What could be a better option? And if nothing is the better option then maybe I can just put some rock there, or put a planter there, where I can remove the plant and tuck it into the shade if it’s like a super hot, scorchy spot.”


The best resource to influence your garden is local knowledge, said Chung. Besides options like her new book, there are gardening groups in person and online that offer a wealth of relevant information. Gardeners tend to be proud of their work and sometimes chatting on the street offers the best practical guidance. That can also be an affordable way to try a new plant. 

“Some people are just pruning anyway and they’re happy to give cuttings away. So that’s a way you can get around a really expensive plant and buying from nurseries – look for plant swaps. A lot of people are pruning their figs and elderberries. I usually prune my goji plants in late winter and I give cuttings away. They root so easily but if you go to any nursery they are $29 or more for one gallon.”

Another consideration when looking at food gardens for Lynn Valley is wildlife. 

“It’s a real thing, wildlife. As much as we want to romanticize growing an orchard, we have bears walking into our carport from the wooded area. We have to think about wildlife, not just bears coming down and eating fruit, it’s also our maintenance practices. What smells good for us, smells good for the raccoons, bears, and whatever else. If anything is not harvested, it’s going to bring more of those black bears into the property, which, as we all know, is a not good thing for the bears.”

The weather up here, in Lynn Valley, can be very different from the flatter, drier land near Park and Tilford. 

“If you’re deeper into the valley or further up, you’re going to get cooler, moist pockets, which are maybe great for certain plants, like, cool season veggies, but may not be the best for Medaterrian plants like rosemary or bay laurel.”

As the growing season creeps ever closer Chung encourages residents to bide their time.

“It’s so tempting to put out warm season crops, like tomatoes,” she said. “For the past two years, I haven’t planted before June. Just because the weather is so unpredictable, we could be getting a long, cold, wet spring, which is not good for those heat-loving plants. In a nutshell, the tip is to be patient and wait until we get consistently warm soil. A good investment is to get a soil thermometer and test once a day. And if the temperature is consistently at or above 10 Celsius, that’s a good sign.”

You can find Chung’s book The Layered Edible Garden at Maple Leaf Garden Centre or on Amazon. 

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

New art space in LV

Lynn Valley Centre is getting creative this month with the grand opening of Monika’s Art Boutique-Studio & Gallery. The new studio and retail space offer families options for art lessons and creative after-school care.

Dream come true

Building on her previous experience as a teacher and the success of her Lonsdale location, Monika Blichar, just days ago opened the doors to the latest branch of Monika’s Art BoutiqueStudio & Gallery  From its roots that began 15 years ago in Pemberton Heights the new space in Lynn Valley has Blichar excited for new opportunities grounded in her mission to foster creativity and peace of mind.

Monika Blichar

Monika Blichar

“The real goal is helping parents make sure that they’re supported and their needs are met to have somewhere safe for their kids,” said Blichar. “We’re always trying to push the boundaries so that it’s not just coming to make art in a daycare. It’s trying to teach them skills and give kids something that they can build on in the future.”

She hopes that by offering programs that engage and excite children it helps them stay connected to their creative roots.

“There’s so many factors that can get them derailed but at least if they have some interest in something creative, whether it’s that they keep drawing at home or they start doing their own comic books or they get into video game development or story writing. As they get older at least they have something that they’ve developed so they don’t go off and start doing things that aren’t productive or maybe dangerous as they get into their teenagers. We’ve had kids coming in that have just been so engaged in the art, that they come back and work here.”

The new space, which began offering programming in the first week of May, has allowed Blichar to expand her afterschool care from six schools to thirteen. The new Lynn Valley location will be offering care to Lynn Valley, Upper Lynn, Ross Road, Eastview and Boundary elementaries, plus another outside of Lynn Valley. 

“We’ve been looking for about two years for the space because we have a huge waitlist. There are so many families that just don’t have after-school care – it’s a huge need on the North Shore,” she said. “We explore all kinds of different artistic pursuits for kids, not just painting and drawing, but really teaching them the well-roundedness of living a creative, resourceful and abundant life that comes from learning how to do lots of different things. Some of the things that we do include traditional artistic forms, like painting, watercolour, acrylic, oil pastels, and charcoal but also other more practical arts like how to make your own soap.” 

Passion with purpose

The Lynn Valley studio and gallery will also feature opportunities for local makers to sell their wares. Blichar is enthusiastic about supporting artists and fostering entrepreneurship. 

“One of my passions is really helping business owners,” she said. “Part of the boutique that we have here as well in the new location is local arts and goods. We work with mostly all BC artists but I do import some stuff from Poland as well because that’s where my family’s from. We have candles and soaps and bath bombs and Mother’s Day gifts and small art pieces, jewelry, bookmarks, tea infusers…”

It’s an idea that allows Blichar to encourage older kids to think beyond the art process to have a purpose for creation as well. 

“We try to teach the kids at the same time too:  you can sell your stuff as well and learn what entrepreneurship is through making artwork. Art is not just something that you make and then throw it in the recycling after. We try to make meaningful projects and really connect them to life and skills. 

“Some of the kids we’ve had have gotten really good at what they love and realized they can put it up for sale. They get all excited about their own money.” 

MAB has other practical purposes. With adult programs, pro-day camps, birthday parties and even movie night options, said Blichar. She expects more than 500 kids to come through their summer camps this year. 

Where to find MAB

The original MAB location is on Lonsdale at West Kings Road. The new Lynn Valley studio and gallery is on the second floor of Lynn Valley Centre in the former Curves space. It can be accessed via the east entrance near Conifer St. 

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

A second round with NSR on the small screen

After breaking Knowledge Network records, both North Shore Rescue and Silvapark Films are back with a new season of Search and Rescue: North Shore debuting May 28. The five-part docuseries takes place throughout the North Shore and Squamish highlighting the dedicated volunteers that are on duty 24/7/365.

Real impacts

Promising a look into the lives of Canada’s busiest search and rescue team, the second season of Search and Rescue: North Shore brings viewers along through the highs and lows facing local volunteers traversing through and over the mountains surrounding Lynn Valley. The first season released in 2020 was a massive success. It was an easy decision for all involved to invest the time and effort to offer a second season. 

Mike Danks

When Jenny Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin approached North Shore Rescue to document the local volunteer group they weren’t the first. With offers for longer format movies to lengthy reality TV, NSR Team Leader Mike Danks said it was clear the Silvapark Films team had something others didn’t: a respect for patient care priority and a comprehensive understanding of all the obstacles they would face. 

“Our biggest concern was that it would not affect our response in any way,” said Danks, a LynnValley local, who was also recently appointed chief of the District of North Vancouver Fire Rescue Services. “They came and trained with us and showed us they had the skills to come along and not impact us in any sense. I think it’s important for people to understand how incredible it is that they captured the footage they did. We didn’t wait for them at all. We were moving as quickly as we possibly could and they were able to stay with us or get a head to capture that footage.”

The unforgiving terrain and weather, difficult for NSR, pulls no punches at the small crew filming their work. 

“We have rescues that last multiple days and they are trying to keep GoPros running and the batteries going in conditions where it was -20, -30°C. Our main focus is not to keep those cameras going. We are doing what we need to do and they are doing what they need to do to capture the footage.”

The first season proved that all that effort is well worth it. 

“We had an overwhelmingly positive response from everyone that saw it,” said Danks. “They really stressed the importance of lessons learned and seeing what happens behind the scenes and seeing the impact of these calls have on not only our mental wellbeing but the impact they have on our families as well. 

“When they talked about doing season two it was a no-brainer. We also had a large increase in community support and that also reflects on other teams in the province as well – which was huge.”

Apart from gratitude and surprise that the “professional-grade” service providers are volunteers, one of the most beneficial results has been an increase in donations. The program showcased many of the practical challenges for all of British Columbia volunteer search and rescue groups. The increase in donor funding inspired by the series had noticeable ripple effects throughout the province. 

“The impact it had on donations to – not just with us but groups around the province – we didn’t hesitate to jump into season two.”

For Baldwin – who also became a resource member for NSR after filming season one helping support rescues using drones – one of the most important impacts is showcasing the efforts of the group whose members each give an average of 600 hours a year to prepare and rescue those in need. It is a perspective the subjects (the people being rescued) are also supportive of and makes them willing to share the potentially worst day of their lives so publicly.

“It often surprises the subject that we are filming because they don’t realize they’re volunteers. A lot of people still don’t know that,” said Baldwin.

There are a lot of vulnerabilities and tragedies captured. In some cases the subjects have found great value in viewing the footage after the fact, said Baldwin. 

“They know they are lost or injured. They don’t understand what’s happening on the side of the rescue they don’t understand how the call comes to them. They don’t understand maybe why it took so long to get there or there are a lot of moving pieces and I think it’s helpful to see how it came together from the rescuers’ perspective.”

Season two

It was an interesting time to shadow NSR, said Baldwin. At the time of filming season two they were in the process of getting approvals for their night vision flying and coincidentally a wealth of photos and historical NSR records were found. 

“You’ll learn more about Mike Danks, who’s team leader, his dad and his role on the team. You’ll learn more about some of the tech stuff that’s coming out with the team and also what’s available to the public in terms of hiking technology,” said Baldwin. “There are some technical rescues involving base jumpers, paragliders, and some of them are pretty intense as well.”

It captures a very impactful period for Danks and his family. His father is fighting what will likely be a terminal diagnosis of cancer. 

“It captures a lot about my dad. He joined in the early 70s. He is the reason I joined the team,” said Danks. “Right now he is fighting a battle with cancer and will probably not survive much longer. He is in this and he has this legacy. It’s hard for me because I see his declining health as the series goes on.”

Baldwin and his team know much of the first season was shared with viewers of all ages. He advises pre-watching to make sure it’s suitable for everyone in your family. It was important to the film crew that they were accurate about the tragedy and personal risk volunteers face.

“There’s definitely some dramatic spectrum in this series, and it’s something you have to consider but we don’t shy away from that because we want to show what SAR goes through. We want to show how they deal with traumatic rescues as well. If we just dodged around that, then the conversation doesn’t happen about the mental health of the rescuers as well.”

Prioritizing health

The effects of such intense volunteer work have significant impacts on NSR members. The group has evolved over the years to understand and work to support each other.

“I think times have changed, in the 10-year period I have been I have been the team leader. There has been a shift in how first responders look out for each other –  to share it and not wear it,” said Danks. “NSR is exposed to a tremendous amount of trauma. I would almost argue that it is more than you see with police and fire because the calls we are going to are very, very significant. When you are in mountainous terrain the consequences are very high in those circumstances. 

“Now we recognize we need to be more strategic with our responses so we can reduce the number of people who are exposed to that [risk and that trauma]. Not many people are aware that through covid our call volume spiked and a lot of those calls we were going to were suicides. Those were people who were 16-30 years old. They were going up to the mountains and jumping off cliffs or jumping in rivers or they were finding an isolated spot and they were overdosing on drugs. Those are calls we are responding to and we have a whole diverse group of people who aren’t used to seeing that – like accountants. We take the time to talk about that in this series and telling that story helps us cope with that and hopefully it helps others talk about it.” 

When it comes to local viewers of the series who live, work and play in the mountains on the North Shore Danks hopes viewers gain an understanding of the wilderness that is accessible after a short hike from a downtown bus stop. 

“The goal is to increase everyone’s awareness of preparedness and to shed light on the North Shore mountains are not just what you see from the downtown core. When you get to the North side of those mountains they are more remote areas without cell coverage. The game changes very, very quickly and you need to know how to navigate mountain terrain and let someone know where you are going and when you will be back and be prepared for changing conditions. 

“You get to see little snippets of people going through those journeys and need help. It’s not to say that every rescue is preventable. That is not the case. No one goes out there planning to have a bad day,” said Danks. “It’s an opportunity to see the impact of some of the families that supported us that have lost a loved one. They have left a legacy that supports the North Shore community and you can see how that is paid back. 

“And to be honest. I am getting a bit older and my emotions run pretty high. You get to see something happen in this series that shows how someone’s life was lost and it was paid back to multiple younger adults who made some pretty big mistake but they were saved because of that legacy.”

Season two of Search and Rescue: North Shore debuts on Knowledge Network May 28th at 8 pm. It will also be available for online viewing.  

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Onboarding Autistic youth

A local dad has taken his passion for sport and his drive to build an inclusive community to the one place he feels most at home: the skate park. Dropping into his fourth season with Spectrum Skateboard Society, Blair Durnan is helping autistic kids roll through social challenges and get physically active.

The grab

The daily ritual of skateboarding before and after his shifts working with youth with disabilities inspired Blair Durnan to pair his love of skateboarding with his education in therapeutic recreation. 

“I was working for the Developmental Disabilities Association at their location at Kensington Community Centre, which has a skate park connected to it. Eventually, the kids in the program – mostly autistic kids would come out and watch me and then a few of them wanted to learn how to skate but just due to insurance through the DDA, it just wasn’t possible to do that.”

As covid hit, Durnan had to leave his job to look after his own two sons and was wrestling with the closures of parks, playgrounds and skate parks. 

“I became their school teacher and we couldn’t go out so I built a mini ramp in the backyard and we would skate during “recess.”

Spurred into action by covid, the idea of starting an organization supporting kids through skateboarding solidified as he worked during those homeschooling breaks with his autistic son.

“Part of how his autism presents itself is that he hyper-focuses. And he would not give up. How many slams it took, it didn’t matter. He would not give up on learning or trying to trick. It rekindled my original thoughts from the DDA. And I was like, okay, when it comes back to going back to work, I want to do this. I’m going to try to start this.”

He spent the next months organizing his non-profit and service provider status and launched Spectrum Skateboard Society in the spring of 2021. This year he expects more than 250 kids to go through his programs and summer camps at Kirkstone and in Vancouver. 

Gapping understanding

From the outside, the skate park can be an intimidating place, acknowledges Durnan but that is because it has its unique etiquette. He argues it’s the most welcoming environment to learn a sport. 

“It is an intimidating place unless you spend time there. And then once you start spending time there, you see the community in it. It just doesn’t look like the community we perhaps stereotypically think of. But they’re wonderful. I’ve seen some really cool things.

“What’s also intimidating about skate parks are the skills,” said Durnan. “Seeing the really, really high-level skaters at a skate park is intimidating for anyone, it doesn’t matter if you’re a skater or not. But that being said, that’s all in your own head. The skate community is one of the most welcoming groups of people that you’ll ever come across.”

From his experience, inclusivity translates well to people with ability differences. 

“Autistic kids or neurodivergent kids don’t always do the greatest in team sports because other kids don’t accept them. Coaches don’t know how to deal with them. So they kind of feel excluded. At the skate park, you’re there to do your own thing but it is kind of a team. Everyone’s watching out for each other. And it doesn’t matter what level you’re at you’re going to get cheered on. If a really, really good skater sees you just trying to push and ride around a pylon, and you’ve tried it and tried it over and over and over again, they’re watching you. And as soon as you complete that, everyone’s cheering. And what we do as skaters is we bang our tails against the ground, our skateboards against the ground, and that’s like basically clapping.”

At the same time skateboarding offers the opportunity to learn at your own pace and in your own way, he said. 

“I think it’s a challenge of trying the tricks – and trying them over and over and over again and failing, but then when you finally succeed, it’s just such a great feeling. The skate park is just such a great welcoming and encouraging community. Everybody helps each other with tricks you’re learning. And it’s so healthy too. Gone is the image of skateboarders being punk rockers just trashing stuff. It’s not true anymore. 

“It’s not necessarily something you see in other sports because there is a certain amount of hanging out there also. That is what makes it so great compared to organized sports. You still get to participate if you’re not keeping up. If you join baseball and if you can’t keep up catching and hitting and throwing, then you’re not going to make it to the next level. You don’t get the opportunity to play anymore.”

Building skills on and off the board

Durnan has a unique ambition – different from most recreational service providers. 

“My whole goal is to have that child never come back to me and go to the skate park on their own. The goal is to give them the basics of skateboarding or the ability to skate on their own and now they can go enjoy this on their own.”

He is proud of the feedback he hears from parents sharing the beneficial effects of the program extending into other parts of the participants’ lives. 

“I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that coming to skateboarding and being involved in skateboarding has progressed their child’s physical therapy. When they go see their physical therapist, that therapist is commenting: ‘Wow, what’s happening here?’  And that’s because of skateboarding, which is amazing. My other mission is to foster friendships so kids who come not knowing anyone meet someone to go to the park with.”

A common challenge facing autistic kids is understanding and reading social situations. The skatepark is an excellent place to practice those skills too, said Durnan.

“We teach the kids as well about the skate park. There’s a whole unwritten etiquette at the skate park. Everyone kind of has their turn. You have to be able to read that at the skate park. So that’s a big part of what we teach in the very beginning.”

Getting involved

Spectrum Skateboard Society supports youth ages six – 17. It is a recognized autism service provider allowing parents to use their funding for camps and classes. They also have a scholarship fund for those that need financial aid. Skills range from never-ever to seasoned riders with a couple of kids surpassing some of the coaches. Durnan emphasizes that everyone started at the beginning. 

“In a typical skateboard class, you would have one instructor to eight to 10 kids. I have more like six instructors to eight kids usually, because a lot of the kids with the way their autism presents itself, need one-on-one support. And another big thing is falling.

“Because of sensitivities and hypersensitivity, I just don’t want to risk falling onto the hard concrete and then that child or youth just not ever wanting to do it again because of that one fall. So we always have our eyes on every kid. We’re usually running around holding hands.”

Prior to lessons, Durnan and/or a Spectrum Skateboard Society volunteer director, who is an expert from the Able Clinic, speak with parents and participants to understand their child’s needs. Instructors are trained with Canada Skateoard and specifically to support autistic kids. Durnan meets annually with the City of Vancouver’s skate park hosts so they understand what behaviours they may see if a skater in a Spectrum Skateboard Society t-shirt shows up. 

“They will go and approach them, get them out there, make them feel comfortable in the skate park, talk to the parents.”

Looking to the future

Spectrum Skateboard Society has a growing reputation and gets requests to offer programs throughout BC. Durnan is also working on overcoming more local challenges: the weather. 

“Our skaters finally find something where they belong, they feel like they can do it, and they want to continue to do it. And now we’re kind of the only kind of activity that they do. It’s been a struggle trying to keep this going all year round because it rains here so much. It’s super dangerous to skateboard in the rain.

“It’s been a real struggle to try to find an indoor spot through the winter because the majority, I would say 95% of our attendees want to continue this all year round. The lack of indoor opportunities is a struggle. I’ve managed to do it. Something’s always come through, but I don’t know. I’m always wondering what the winter’s going to hold.”

There is a misconception Durnan says that skateboards will ruin the floors or arena.

“That’s just not the case. What people don’t realize is that our instructors are walking most of the time and the skaters that we have are basically just rolling.”

Practicing year-round helps build skills and comfort that Durnan hopes leads to a lifelong love for the sport. 

“If you’re not a good enough hockey player, sorry, you’re not going up to the next level. Now you’re aged out and you can’t even play anymore,” he said. “That just doesn’t happen in skateboarding. It doesn’t matter. There are no coaches. Nobody is telling you what to do and when to do it or how to do it. Everybody does the same tricks. The difference with skateboarding – and it goes with skiing and snowboarding too – everyone looks different when they do their trick. It’s like everyone has their own style of doing it. And it makes it unique to them. And that’s, and I think that’s when the people start to say that it’s more like an art form. People make it their own.”

To learn more about the Spectrum Skateboard Society visit its website.

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Cheering for the world championships

Argyle athletes at the top of their game are hoping to head to world championships in 2025. Year after year the Argyle Cheer team tops the provincial rankings. The current roster is fundraising to return to the World Championships in Florida to take on more competition. 

Taking on the world

The halls of Argyle Secondary are quiet in the mornings.  A lone staffer is slowly making their way through the halls and a PE teacher heads outside to prep for soccer practice. The facilities are dark. As the clock turns over to 7 am a wave of energy enters the building and moves swiftly upstairs. The Gold Cheer team begins the well-practiced routine of setting up the gym and in minutes is stretching for the morning practice. 

The Sea to Sky regional and provincial champion team is looking to take on the world in April 2025.

“It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears,” said co-captain grade 11 student Melika Doust. “It’s hard to stay motivated when you don’t have competition. It can even be hard for the judges [in local competitions]  to evaluate our team because there isn’t really anything to compare us to.”

Co-Captains of the Gold Cheer Team

The world championships are beyond an essential goal, says co-captain Ella Waite, Grade 11. The event draws over 10,000 athletes from 25 countries in a range of divisions. It is inspiring to merely attend, says Waite.

“One of the coolest things about Worlds is that all competitions are at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World and I have watched the stunting there online,” said Waite. “I am thinking of the people that stood on that same mat before me, the success I watched it it was the same place, on the same mat, standing at the same spot as me. It’s inspiring.”

It’s a mega-competition unlike any other Darren Rath, Argyle Secondary School athletic director, has seen throughout his high school and university coaching careers. Argyle has attended World in the past, in 2023 bringing home the bronze.

“I was taken aback at the sheer size of the competition,” said Rath. “There are so many different levels. On the day of the event, more people come through the complex than through the gates of Disney World. It’s so big, that Disney World extends its hours just for athletes so they can focus on competition during the day and enjoy the rides after the finals. They don’t do that for just anyone.

“This is an important motivation for the athletes to achieve their goals and keep them pushing to be the best,” said Rath. “Worlds will allow them to finally measure themselves against their own level and be inspired by the all-star teams.”

For the athletes, there is an additional point of pride.

“I think there is more to it when you are representing your country, not just your school and coaches,” said Doust.

Hard work for success

Argyle Secondary has been a leader in cheer for decades, said Rath. 

“All the coaches who have been running the program from the late 90s have created something really healthy that the girls buy into,” he said. “They have fostered such a positive, inclusive environment that promotes great teamwork. The coaches create opportunities for anyone who wants to be involved.”

Interest at Argyle is so strong there are two cheer teams. The green team is for beginners and the gold team is a higher level of competition, said Doust. When available gold team members are expected to help coach and mentor the green team. It fosters a pathway to progress for those new to cheer and a culture of support, said Rath. 

“It’s a lot of hard work but I know I can rely on these girls on the mat and off,” said Waite. “It takes discipline to practice this much, and still be a strong student. I know I can’t hang out sometimes.”

These are lessons Doust thinks will have big returns later in life. 

“You have to learn to be accountable to yourself,” she said. “Cheer is 10% physical. We practice a lot and it all comes down to muscle memory and it’s 90% mental. You can’t have doubt or hesitation.”

Argyle’s results have been speaking for themselves for years but the captains say that hard work isn’t always given the respect it deserves and attending worlds is an opportunity to feel validated. 

“At school, cheer is under-acknowledged as a sport,” said Waite looking over at the trophy cabinet. “The Worlds cheer trophy is sitting there on the bottom shelf. This is mostly all women competing, coached by women. It should be showcased as empowering women athletes at the school.

“It shows a lot of determination to practice four days a week and compete. Going to Worlds is a chance to show off that hard work.”

Community support

Heading to Worlds is a big endeavour that requires a lot of fundraising, parents school and community support. Costs are estimated at $4000 per athlete. The fundraising is typically pooled. Athletes also volunteer at community events to raise the profile of the team and in partnership with the Lynn Valley Lions.

“There are some athletes who can’t afford such a big commitment financially,” said Doust. “We have team members that have jobs and school who can’t fundraise at the same level. We also have families where the athletes are getting jobs to support the trip. We want people to not be limited by their resources so the team fundraising is pooled.”

They have several fundraisers – including Neufeld Farms –  in the works and the team is looking for community sponsors. To support their efforts or to be looped in for future fundraisers email the parent fundraising coordinator. 

“It’s a fantastic program, within the group there are a number of girls with a lot of self-confidence and they use that to empower others. You see a different side of their personality that may not come out in school.”

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Community rising with baking bread

A little flour, salt and water are helping Lynn Valley grow. From a pandemic project to community building, Eva Lee has been learning the ins and outs of baking sourdough and sharing her successes and lessons to help others rise.


Like many people during the pandemic shutdowns, Lee shifted to work from home and was making her circle small. With extra time on her hands, along with a couple of friends, Lee restarted working on a goal to master sourdough bread.

“I thought it was going to be easy peasy,” laughed Lee. “It’s really hard!”

Eva Lee, left, at a cooking class.

Armed with a starter from an artisan market, a previous lesson and lots of information online she thought that in no time there would be bread on her table.

“There is a lot of information online but it’s so confusing,” she said. “In hindsight, I think I made it more difficult than it is by trying to add whole grains – like rye and buckwheat.”

It was a learning curve that had her going through jars of starter and bags of flour. With day-to-day contacts mandated to be low, Lee turned to the Lynn Valley Buy Nothing Facebook group (an online community that offers and asks for goods and services instead of traditional commerce) to share her newfound abundance of bread.

“I was making bread every day, and so I started giving it away almost every day,” she said. “This was a community I loved and I wanted to share. Bread is a good way to give back.”

Community rising

Lee continued on her path to mastery and was feeling confident after four or five months. 

“Once you understand it, sourdough is not ridged. It can be very forgiving using the fridge to slow fermentation and I learned that it can be dictated to my schedule.”

With loaf after loaf being dropped off on doorsteps to the Buy Nothing members throughout Lynn Valley, Lee’s reputation as a baker was rising along with the dough. People began seeking her guidance. As health mandates lessened, Lee began to plan a class.

For Tanya Verret it was a chance – and a challenge – she was intrigued by.  

“When I first moved to Lynn Valley Eva was always offering bread,” said Verret. “She was so generous, she would come by and pick something up and she would leave a beautiful loaf of bread.”

The challenge of baking bread felt intimidating to Verret as she continued to heal from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

“Learning a new skill is challenging,” she said. “I have never baked bread in my entire life. Sure, maybe a banana loaf here or there, but never, ever bread. I’ve eaten a lot ”

Lee’s class did much more than teach her the basics of sourdough baking. 

“I don’t think Eva understands what she has given to the community,” said Varret. “She is a magical woman who has the ability to bring people together. She has given me this skill but it is so much more than that. She has given me confidence and the ability to be calm and in the moment.”

Simple flour, salt, water and Lee’s support have been ingredients that have helped Verret rise along with her dough.

“With a TBI things can be hard, Eva has given me a gift – and it’s having a real impact,” she said. “I make bread every week. I usually give away a loaf every time I bake. I feel lighter. I haven’t felt proud of something I have done in a long time. I learned something new, and it’s something that helps take care of my family. It’s amazing.”

Breaking bread

After a couple of classes, Lee appreciates some of the unintended benefits of sharing her love of baking. 

“It’s hard to meet people and during the pandemic, it was even harder,” she said. “Most of the people who came to the first class ‘knew’ each other online. It was a chance to finally meet in person through a common interest.”

Lee supported bakers after the class offering more opportunities for connection through a Facebook group to ask questions and share the bread challenges and support. This led her initial students to help out her second class. 

“I loved helping out. It was wonderful to see how Eva had honed her teaching skills and advanced. The first was great but she is so thoughtful and intentional that she is working to make it even better” said Verret. “She is so gentle and encouraging and makes her students believe they can do this. Eva really is magic.”

While the classes are still infrequent and informal, and her bread deliveries are a little less common as she refines her skills, Lee is leaving crumbs throughout Lynn Valley. 

“We are lucky to have the community we do,” said Verret. “Eva has given us a lot more than she knows – and I do tell her but I don’t think she quite gets how great she is – and how delicious her bread is.”

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

E-cargo and active transportation sessions

The DNV is hosting active transportation information sessions highlighting its upcoming launch of an e-cargo lending program. Information sessions are throughout April & May and will be coming to Lynn Valley on April 20 & 21. 

Getting people out of cars

Active transportation plans for the DNV are geared to getting people out of their cars to take more trips on foot, on transit or by bike or scooter. 

“I think we aren’t moving fast enough at connecting projects,” said councillor Jordan Back. “We learned a lot about the impact on local residents with 29th Street but that has left us a little bit behind. We need more connected mobility lanes – what have been typically referred to as bike lanes – to get people to the places they want to go.”

It will also take a shift from car first to ‘car-light,’ says Back. 

Jordan Back and his family on a bike

Jordan Back

“It’s hard to imagine another way to get around,” said Back. “I drive a car when it’s needed but most of your everyday needs can be done by bike. Improving bike facilities like newer racks that any size bike can lock to and better lighting are also making it better.”

As the DNV engages with the public and council, Back thinks active transportation can be developed with a simple goal in mind.

“Safe routes are used more. One way to think about it is: if it’s safe enough for you to bring your young kids, it’s going to be safe for everyone else.”

Embracing e-bikes

One of the biggest changes making a ‘car-light’ lifestyle feasible in a hilly place like North Vancouver is the rise of and affordability of e-bikes. The DNV began exploring the idea of e-cargo bike lending library last year after a motion introduced by Back. 

“It’s moving ahead,” said Back. “I think it will be great especially now that we will be working with the city [of North Vancouver]. So many people will have the opportunity to see how it fits their life. Does a cargo bike physically fit in their space?” 

The larger bikes are popular in other parts of the world offering a more functional family-friendly form of transportation. Back says he hopes that making them available for a family to test drive will help them embrace this newer form of active transportation. 

To learn more visit one of the DNV’s information opportunities throughout April and May. Two sessions will be at the Lynn Valley library from 11 am – 2 pm April 20 & 21.

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

LV restaurant expands to third shop

With almost 20 years under their belts as the owners of Lynn Valley’s Mr. Sushi, the Park family has opened their third restaurant and hope to have many more in the future.

From feeding family to feeding hundreds

When the Park family took over Mr. Sushi in 2006 it was a far cry from what it is today: a thriving business in an ill-fated strip mall. 

“When we first purchased the business back in 2006 it had a very humble beginning,” said Edward Park, CEO of Mr. Sushi. “It was so small that no more than three people could work in the kitchen. Sales were low. My father’s thought was if we didn’t make a lot of money, at least he would be making good food to feed his wife and two boys. We didn’t have the hope or vision we currently have.”

Last month Park left his 20-year career in health care to spend 100 percent of his time on the family business, just in time for Mr. Sushi to open its third branch in the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood of Vancouver. They have a prominent spot at 2nd and Main Street. 

Park credits his father Chris’s knowledge and his brother’s customer service for their early success in saving the falling business.  

“We began to make things more efficient and we knew we needed to get to know our customers. Thank god my brother has a really good memory and likes to take care of customers. He remembered names and orders so we could really take care of our customers. We started putting their rolls and their orders on the menu – our regular customers helped us create our menu,” said Park, at the time he was a university student helping out when he could. “Lynn Valley was different in 2006 so almost all our customers were regulars. We have had little kids who grew up eating Mr. Sushi and are now married and bringing their own kids.”

Edward Park

Years later, some items have come and gone from the official menu but the original Lynn Valley restaurant still has a secret menu known to long-time Lynn Valley locals. 

“We have the Fire Chief Combo – the fire chief and the leaders at the fire hall would come almost every lunch and order the same things,” said Park. “So staff who have been with Mr. Sushi for a long time know the Lynn Valley Boys Combo, Lynn Valley Girls Combo, Argyle Combo – things like that.” 

Another insight bit of customer care and business savvy was to give customers a bonus bite. It was a tradition for more than 10 years to offer customers a free yam cone. 

“We weren’t really thinking about marketing but we want to make sure our customers left satisfied. It’s led to something interesting. The most popular roll at Lynn Valley is not a California roll or a Dynamite roll like at most sushi restaurants – it’s the yam roll – people love our yam roll.” 

Steady growth

From the small space at Lynn Valley Mall the Park family began to trust the lessons they had learned and think about expansion. The right opportunity to buy into a new development in Lonsdale led to the debut of Mr. Sushi Lonsdale in 2016. 

“It was a big leap. We partnered with the Business Development Bank of Canada and we were able to open Mr. Sushi Londsdale and seven years later we opened Mr. Sushi Main Street [Vancouver].”

But in those intervening years, like all small businesses, Mr. Sushi took several blows during the pandemic. Park says his experience in health care – specifically risk management gave the family confidence.

“We had made a smart decision, the family only wanted to expand if we owned the property and us being able to pay a mortgage instead of rent saved us during the pandemic,” he said. “We knew we must find an opportunity in this risk [the pandemic]. We invested in our online marketing and digital presence. We found ways to pivot and redefine who we are.”

Those decisions are paying off. The Mr. Sushi brand has captured a balance of aspirational eats and a warm welcoming space. It was also at that time Chris was looking at other opportunities – quality real estate for a restaurant. 

“We have approached Main Street like Starbucks and McDonald’s,” said Park. “We want locations to be owned by Mr. Sushi – like Mcdonald’s but easily replicated and owner-managed like Starbucks.”

The Park family hopes to have many more Mr. Sushi locations with the lessons learned from opening Main Street. From design to construction to technology they think they have developed a copy-and-paste model that will have them with future locations. 

“We have invested heavily in automation at Main Street,” he said. “We want to offer the same high-quality food with consistency at high volumes.”

They have mechanized much of the sushi-making process that will ensure if you order a roll for a table of one it will be the same as a catering order for 400. They are the first sushi restaurant to bring this type of production process to BC, said Park. 

“I took a call last week for an order there is no way we could have done without Main Street. It feels like there are more opportunities. My dad is visionary – this is all his idea.”

The heart is always Lynn Valley

But despite the outward push and vision, Park says his dad’s – and the entire family’s – heart will always be in Lynn Valley. Park has been a part of the Lynn Valley Services Society serving their board for years.  Even their logo was born here at the Lynn Valley Library while working with a friend who Park met during his time in the Canadian Navy many years ago. 

“We regret that we don’t have eat-in at Lynn Valley anymore. It’s too small to make it a worthwhile business but it’s my father’s pride. We miss that personal touch.”

He expects the Polygon development slated for the mall will give them two to three more years at that location. 

“We haven’t lost focus that we are doing what we are doing because of the customers in Lynn Valley and the great staff that support us. We are not leaving Lynn Valley. We don’t know what the future will look like but we want to be here and to give back to the community.”

With the family’s heart going strong in Lynn Valley, Park also says it’s the place to get their best dish.

“The dynamite roll in Lynn Valley is the best. Our Main Street and Lonsdale Dynamite rolls are good, but there is something about Lynn Valley – I think it’s the best in the world.”  

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

New production reunites two LV actors

More than 10 years after their last performances at Argyle’s Buchanan Theatre, local actors Sam Fraser and Garth Phillips are taking to the stage again in a new production showcasing the diversity and community of theatre. 

The joy of theatre

Two local actors are hitting the stage this month in a new production called Sigma Acapella. They are part of a thriving local theatre scene that spans from Deep Cove to Hendry Hall to Granville Island and beyond. 

Garth Phillips

Garth Phillips

“If you want to participate in local theatre there is a place for you,” said Phillips. “If you go to Hendry Hall or to Deep Cove and talk with the productions going on there they will be thrilled to have you. You can volunteer your time, and use the opportunity to connect with other theatre people.”

Fraser agrees that local theatre is typically an open and welcoming environment. 

“I am someone who doesn’t get out much. I am on the autism spectrum and there is something so wonderfully freeing about going to a theatre environment where there is no judgment. Bias falls away and I can use the written script to express something, be different or try something new.”

Both actors use the word collaborative when describing the productions they are typically a part of. 

“I am a bit of a storyteller,” said Fraser, who has also published a number of written works. “Theatre is wonderfully collaborative – I love working with people to create a sort of escape for others.”

Sam Fraser in a suit with a cane.

Sam Fraser

Phillips views it as an essential part of community.  

“Theatre is bringing pieces of life together and putting them together in a new and interesting pattern, bringing them together with other people. Theatre by definition is a community thing: a community makes it, a community comes and watches it and it’s those stories from the community. I think community is the heart of theatre.”

Both Fraser and Phillips are only part-time actors, having recently completed graduate studies and pursuing training and education in animation/gaming, respectively. Like most of their theatre colleagues, they are fitting in this production amongst life’s busyness – continuing a passion that started at Argyle. 

“Garth and I actually met at Argyle. We would be in the same productions,” said Fraser.  “I had to dip in and out of theatre while I was off getting various degrees but I would do it when I could.”

The current Rushed Production musical was a reminder for Phillips too that theatre is a passion he wants to prioritize. 

“I hadn’t done a production in the longest time and going forward, I know I want to do more,” he said. “I love this. I love that as we are making this, the cast is also making each other laugh. I love the process.”

Typically Phillips would have been behind the scenes and Fraser on stage but for Sigma Acapella they are both taking on stage roles.

A musical with heart

The two local actors will take to the stage on March 18 for the original musical Sigma Acapella  by Annahis Basmadjian. 

“Basically, there is a frat house on the edge of a university campus that is on the verge of being torn down to make way for some very fancy, expensive student housing. The unofficial leader learns of a loophole in the university bylaws that says any society of the arts or humanities is going to be saved, so they have to convince the administration that instead of a rundown frat house, they are a musical theatre group. They team up with an on-the-edge-of-university fringe musical theatre group – the Nobodies,” said Fraser.

The Nobodies are marginalized people for various reasons: disability, gender, sexuality, mental illness, he said. The two groups decide to stage their own musical. 

“Think of any 90’s movie where they are trying to save the rec centre from being torn down by the evil mayor – this is a version of that,” all wrapped up in a warm, witty musical, said Fraser. 

“It’s heartfelt and silly,” said Phillips. “I think it will particularly resonate with anyone who feels they are outside of regular society. There are a lot of themes people can relate to.”

It’s the script that spoke to Fraser and his lived experience of having autism.

“I think folks who have felt at casting calls – or elsewhere in life – who feel overlooked because of societal barriers will connect with this production.” 

The 20-person cast has been working for over two and half months to get to the stage. It’s been a tight timeline. 

“It’s frantic at this stage but it’s all coming together and we are surprised by what we are accomplishing each rehearsal,” said Phillips. “It all falls into place, everyone is putting their all in.”

Sigma Acapella is written and produced by Annahis Basmadjian and composed by Sebastian Ochoa Mendoza. Fraser says Badmadijan has a way of capturing and voicing marginalized characters with empathy and authenticity. 

“She is always very conscious of those differences and she is trying to push forward marginalized groups. She is honest and respectful,” said Fraser.

The cast and crew are excited about the performances.

“This has been a lovely time,” said Phillips. “It’s a great group of people coming together.”

Sigma Acapella can be seen at the Jack and Darlene Poole Theatre, Arts Umbrella, (1400 Johnston Street, Granville Island) | Opening: March 18, 2024, with dates March 18-March 29, 2024 | March 18-20 @ 7:00 PM, March 22-24 @ 7:00 PM, March 26-March 29 @7:00PM, doors opening at 6:30 pm. Tickets are available now for $30.

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.