North Vancouver and Lynn Valley would not be the community it is today without the tenacious advocacy of our Good Neighbour 2023 – Maureen Bragg. From protecting Lynn Canyon to opening up access to North Van’s foreshore, much of the land we routinely use to recreate is accessible because of Bragg. A touch shy of 90 years old Bragg has a passion for civic engagement that is fiery enough to burn for years to come.

From introvert to activist

Always keenly aware of news and politics, in the early 1980s Bragg was a mom and businesswoman who had a habit of enjoying her neighbourhood park. 

“I wasn’t a tree hugger – when I saved the canyon everyone put that title on me but I just loved it – loved the beauty of it. I felt that it was something that should be kept sacred and enjoyed by all people,” said Bragg. “It’s a magic spot. The beauty of the water rushing after the rain, the sun coming through and shining on the moss and the ferns.” 

One day a simple postal delivery changed everything.

“I hiked the canyon every morning before going to work,” said Bragg. “Then one day in the mail I received a colourful brochure from the district saying there would be 2000 houses built in the park including a highway going through the top of LV road going through to Hyannis. 

“I was appalled because it was at the third reading and I had never heard of it. Us locals always called it Lynn Canyon Park and the references to development were calling it Inter River. At that time Seymour wasn’t developed and we thought it was kind of out there.”

This put Bragg in a difficult position. As a realtor and director of the Real Estate Board, she was well aware she was about to fight against 2000 home sales.  

“I had never been involved in anything life,” said Bragg. “My husband thought I had gone stark steering mad because I was the type of person to sit in the back of a room so no one would ask me any questions and I would never put my hand up.”

Bragg was quick to leverage the community. Hand delivering hundreds of flyers sharing a news article and compelling residents to show up at the third reading of the development permit. 

“And to my surprise when I got to the district hall for the meeting there were crowds there. It was so big that the mayor moved it over to the school gymnasium down the street. Over a thousand people turned up. 

“We had no computer, no cell phone, no fax in those days. It had to be done by gumption, as they say, and word-of-mouth.” 

As Bragg distributed flyers she connected with another passionate family and together they spread the word. 

“At a public meeting, everyone has to be able to speak and over 300 signed up stopping the vote from being taken.”

That pause in the process led a small group of advocates to form the Save Lynn Canyon Association and fight a two-year battle. 

“We used to stand in the park and sell memberships  – a lifetime membership was about $1. We raised funds to get the word out and managed to put out four newsletters regarding saving the canyon,” said Bragg.

“We eventually made it a political thing and two and half years later we pushed it to a referendum,” she said. “Then we crossed our fingers that people would turn out and pleaded with people to vote – whichever way they wanted. We were successful. Six thousand people voted to keep it a park and 500 against.”

When the dust settled North Vancouver had the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve and Lynn Canyon Park as we know them today. Bragg credits many others who joined her in the fight for Lynn Canyon Park for the campaign’s success, including many passionate youth from Argyle.  

“There is a cairn in Lynn Canyon Park that shows the district council at the time that officially formed the park – including all members who first voted against it,” said Bragg. “None of us who actually fought to save the park are mentioned – we weren’t exactly popular.”

Tenacious advocate

From the outside, it looks like the fight for Lynn Canyon lit a spark in Bragg that brought her fiery advocacy to so many areas of Lynn Valley and North Vancouver. There is a common thread about all the causes she fights for: To make North Vancouver as livable as possible for all its community members. 

“Maureen has always struck me as the epitome of constructive activism,” said Dan Ellis. “While she’s not slow to gripe about politicians when they don’t measure up, her activism has always been about accomplishing something positive. And she’s been tenacious in her efforts, whether they be: to help citizens be heard in municipal politics, to create a community space at Mollie Nye House, to support community diversity through the District’s Official Community Plan, or to preserve public waterfront access through Save Our Shores.”   

As part of Save Our Shores Bragg helped fight waterfront homeowners who block access to beaches (all oceanfrontage below the high tide line is public in Canada). Their work removed more than 20 blockages to provide almost complete access from Whay-Ah-Wichen/Cates Park to Deep Cove – although a couple of, according to Bragg, politically well-connected homeowners remain in violation. The group hosted an annual beach clean up that on the first year filled four dumpsters and on their last (just prior to Covid) partially filled a single garbage bag. 

“We have made a difference. There used to be tires, and old mattresses. The beaches were a dumping ground. Today we have beautiful beaches,” said Bragg. 

If you spend any time in Lynn Valley Bragg has impacted your life. As a member of the Lynn Valley Community Association for more than 20 years, with five as president, she has helped with Lynn Valley Days, the Lynn Valley Link and the Lynn Valley Services Society at Mollie Nye. Her legacies extend far beyond the list. 

What now

Bragg has a healthy sense of skepticism for all forms of government and she urges residents to be engaged.  

“People live in a bubble and they are not concerned until it pricks their bubble,” she said. “People are not concerned until they are affected. There is not enough human contact. There is too much living online. We need human connection.

“We need people to pay attention to what is going on or we will lose. I live in beautiful Lynn Valley – I still walk the trails. It’s lovely and we must keep it so. We must pay attention. Although I saved Lynn Canyon Park, they can take a slice off for a road or something the district ‘needs.’ It will be a death of a thousand cuts.”

As Bragg talks about her community work, it is clear her mind is on the future and she is deeply concerned about making Lynn Valley more inclusive and livable for all people.  

“I have been a strong advocate for a number of years – and it has fallen on deaf ears. We are now in crisis: We have not supplied housing for the people of the community – only for one section.

“The average family and low-income people that the community depends on to clean the hospitals, serve our early morning coffees, pick up our garbage – the people that make a community work – and they have to do a brutal commute to wherever they were banished. As far out as Abbotsford and they have to commute hours to come here to make this community function. How long will they keep it up? Why would they? We are losing the community engine.”

Businesses are suffering and the quality of our neighbourhoods is declining. 

“They can’t pay staff enough. When you think of young people, the 20 odds, the young couples just meeting each other. Where are they going to rent? There is nothing. There is a housing cruising in every community – Coquitlam, Maple Ridge. We have done nothing for the average bunny. It’s ridiculous. It’s unacceptable.”

She hopes for more affordable duplexes and fourplexes designed to fit with the community streetscape much like parts of England where Bragg spent her youth. 

“I support gentle densification,” she said. “There is a lot to do. We need rentals, we need co-ops, we need diversified housing. Unless the government offers incentives they won’t. Developers aren’t building for charity. They are businessmen building for profit. We haven’t had proper rental developments for 30 years. I feel sick every time a building goes up showing what it offers below market. Ten percent is nothing.” 

Bragg hopes more members of the public simply care a little bit and get involved in what they are passionate about. Perhaps you too will end up with a legacy that has shaped a community as much as Bragg. Her efforts have made Lynn Valley what it is today and will be in the future. But like Maureen Bragg, you can start small. 

“I am a political junky and tend to get carried away. I wasn’t talented or famous. I paid attention.”

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.

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