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.

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.

Spinning Guinness dreams

Last October Lynn Valley’s Heather McDonald kicked off a year-long challenge to get herself in the Guinness Book of World Records – one pedal at a time. As she approaches the halfway mark she is on pace to not only beat the record but also her original goal. 

I think I can, I think I can.

In 2021 McDonald decided to give spin class a try. She had low expectations: she had never done one, she wasn’t sure she could balance on a bike but was pleased it was stationary and she hated cardio.

“The classes were really hard and it really sucked,” she said. “But the more you go, the easier it gets. I was like wow – I am doing this! The studio was offering challenges and to stay motivated I gave one a try. Completing a goal felt really good.” 

That first year on the bike there was a big learning curve. 

“Anyone can do this. I literally hid in the back corner for six months. I could not find the beat. If people were up I was down. If they raised their right hand, I raised my left. It’s hard so everyone is focused on what they are doing and no one cares what you are up to. You just get better with time. Take it slow. It’s dark, you control how hard the bike is and you start where you are and get better.”

More than physical achievements, McDonald said she had a mindset shift and felt her self-confidence grow. 

“I was in my 40s and doing something new and it felt good,” she explained. “I went from a year before hating cardio to doing spin to thinking about other goals. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I looked up the record, sent off my application and planned to wait six to eight weeks to hear back.” 

She didn’t get time to second guess herself. Less than two weeks after filling on the form,  Guinness had accepted her plan to break the record for the most spin classes in a year. McDonald had another barrier she had to consider. Was she manic? She lives with bipolar disorder – a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings that include emotional highs (mania or hypomania) and lows (depression).

“I didn’t tell anyone I was applying – I just did it. My first thought was am I manic?  Am I stable? This was so out of character that I checked in. I gave it time and applied and six months later I was intentionally planning and I was like – you’re good. [An athlete] is who you are now.”

As McDonald works through the attempt she wants to challenge the stigma that still surrounds mental illness. 

“I feel like as a society we are accepting of depression and anxiety – which is great but people hear bipolar and [gasp]. I would like to help get acceptance for more mental health. It’s part of who you are and does not define who you are.” 

As a busy working parent, her bipolar is far from the biggest challenge as she approaches the halfway mark of this year-long effort. 

“I work full time, I watch my nutrition, I have a teenager. Time management is the biggest challenge and sleep.” 

Working the plan

March 15 will be the six-month mark and McDonald is well past the pace she needs to hit 600 classes. The current world record is 585. 

“My goal is 14 a week. I did do 20 in one week and I won’t be doing that again. I thought it would be more about spin classes and less about clerical,” laughed McDonald. “The process is quite tedious. You have to record two to three minutes of each session which can be frustrating because the studio is dark and I had to figure out how to do it without disturbing other riders or the class. There is a logbook that has to be documented and signed by someone who works at the studio after every class. There will have to be two independent witnesses that watch the videos and look at the logbook and verify I did it. They want still photos as well. So, I will have to upload the 600 videos to their website for verification.”

With such an audacious plan, McDonald wanted to undertake the world record attempt at her home gym: Spin Society.  

“Instructors were super for it and so positive. The owner – I think – thought I was a lunatic and had practical concerns. They had questions about whether I was seeing a nutritionist, how I was preparing for it, was I listening to my body. They didn’t want me to be injured during a class.” 

Concerns address, it’s the same energy and support that got her through her first class at Spin Society that is carrying her through.

“I think what makes it about spin – whether or not it’s about a world record is the atmosphere. It’s the instructors, the other riders, the energy,” she said. “Spin can be a slog – good music makes such a difference.  Part of pushing through is using other people’s energy and excitement about how I am doing to cheer me on.”

She wrapped her 300th class – the halfway point – in the third week of February. Reflecting on how far she has come, McDonald is proud of another reflection. 

“Our generation – in our 40s – were raised on such horrible body image and expectations you were supposed to look a very certain way. I am riding next to 20-year-olds who are struggling in one class and it’s my fourth – it has helped me reframe how strong my body is and appreciate what my body does for me. I am strong.

Follow along with McDonald on Instagram as she continues towards her world record.

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.

Romer’s Fresh Kitchen sneak peek – and contest

Opening its doors soon, the new Romer’s Fresh Kitchen & Bar is the next venture from Lynn Valley icon Ron Slinger (formerly of the Black Bear Neighbourhood Pub) and fellow BC Restaurant Hall of Famer Kelly Gordon. Together with chef-partner Jim Romer and business partners Nate Dick and Justin Thompson, the new dining experience will serve up elevated food and beverages in the heart of Lynn Valley. And we are excited to offer you a sneak peek at the new restaurant before its doors officially open.

Raising the bar

With decades of experience behind Romer’s Fresh Kitchen & Bar, the new concept is building on the three existing Romer’s Burgers and giving a distinctly Lynn Valley spin with moody forest-inspired decor and an epic bar experience. 

“This is not the Black Bear. It won’t look or feel the same but it will have that same warmth,” said Slinger. “This will be an evolution beyond the other Romer’s paying respect to the North Shore. We embrace the dark green of the forest and are using murals to capture the images of the area.”

The new 150-seat restaurant is at Lynn Valley Centre on the large outdoor plaza allowing for a large 50-seat patio – with the goal to have it open 300 days a year. Dining and drinking outside will be available April 1st or sooner if the weather allows. 

“When you walk in the door there will be an oyster and sushi bar front and centre with 26 seats,” said Slinger. “We will have skilled bartenders – we are already working on some exciting drinks. The experience will be a step up from a neighbourhood pub with skills and suppliers, but it is still a place for everyone.”

The bar offerings include a sipping tequila list and eight taps. 

“The restaurant will feature a downtown cocktail experience far beyond the usual with a dozen unique hand-shaken cocktails some infused with smoke such as the smoky bourbon cocktail,” said Gordon. “There will be a dozen or more 90-point wines by the bottle and a selection of six- and nine-ounce glasses.”

Romer’s Fresh Kitchen & Bar will offer a daily brunch special starting at 10 am, as well as separate lunch and dinner menus. Known for its free-range BC beef and Alberta Wagyu burgers, Romer’s has won Vancouver’s Best Burgers five times with the Golden Plates. Covering everything from casual to premium steaks, a new edition for Lynn Valley is a brick oven for sourdough pizzas.  

“We want to welcome families. We will have a kids menu and sharing plates that will offer plenty of choices for families,” Slinger said. “The menu will be quite flexible – protein options. There is an entire section for vegetarian and vegan choices.”

The unique long space has allowed creative solutions. Along with the bar and patio, Slinger is most proud of two new skylights in the space to offer light towards the back. Lynn Valley locals may also recognize a few nods to the Black Bear.

Sneak peek

LynnValleyLife is excited to offer 10 couples a sneak peek of the new dining experience. Prior to the official grand opening, there will be three sneak peek services where diners will have an exclusive first taste of Romer’s Fresh Kitchen and support a good cause.

The offer to participate in a dry run for all staff from hostess to kitchen. You and a plus one will be invited to a Friday lunch or dinner or a Saturday lunch. Diners will be offered a random appetizer to share, a random main course, a random dessert to share and a beverage. Diners are asked to fill out surveys to provide feedback to improve the quality of experience. 

“We want constructive criticism,” said Slinger. “We need staff to practice all facets of service so you will be presented with a bill which will have a total of zero unless additional food or drink has been ordered. All tips – which are optional – are collected for donation to the ALS Society of BC. We – Romer’s Fresh Kitchen – will match all funds raised to double the donation.”

To enter a draw for one of the 10 invitations, for you and a plus one,  please fill out the form below. Winners will be contacted to confirm attendance.

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 coach for life’s curve balls

As a busy working mom, Vanessa Gladden knew exactly when and where she had to be to keep her business and family on track but somewhere in the heart of that she knew she was lost. Fast forward several years and Gladden is a life coach helping other women find a path that allows them to thrive.

Put on your own oxygen mask first

The expectations on women and mothers have never been greater. Pressures to put family first, career first and never themselves first, lead many women to lose vision of who they are, said Gladden. The life coach has launched a practice to support women as they face life’s transitions: career changes, kids growing up (ultimately a career change for stay-at-home moms) and divorce.

“I have been through this myself,” said Gladden. “I lost my confidence, I didn’t trust myself, I couldn’t hear my intuition.”

A social worker by training with a past career as an entrepreneur, Gladden started her coaching career to support her business. As she began to seek new directions in her own life she realized lots of women were facing the same challenges without much support.

“There is a lot of stigma around divorce and separation,” she said. “It feels very lonely. There is grief and sadness but it can also be transformational and an empowering experience.”

Those same feelings can be shared by women in other periods of transition such as when children head to school for the first time or when they become empty nesters. The same challenge faces them all: a loss of identity with an unknown future.

Vulnerability and resilence

It’s a situation Gladden faced herself. Her kids were getting older and she was struggling to even think about what her goals for herself were. She opted to take a year off work to explore what her future could be, and ultimately she chose to end her marriage. 

“Women face a lot of pressure to stay in unhealthy relationships,” she said. “I realized I was living on autopilot. I wanted to thrive. I needed to find the courage to put my mental health ahead of business and making money. Kids are resilient. You can prioritize your own happiness and keep your kids safe and secure. Your kids will be amazing.” 

Separation and career changes can feel overwhelming, she said. Fear can lead women to endure situations that aren’t healthy.

“You can feel grief and loss at the same time as excitement,” Gladden said, adding some of the influences that impede women from making changes. “Financial stress, worry about the kids, a loss of confidence and self-trust.” 

Support and vision

A life coach like herself can help women see a path forward to a new future, said Gladden.

“I am a big believer in therapy to understand how you got where you are. A life coach can help you figure out your future,” she explained. “The biggest consideration is personal fit. You need to connect with a coach and find someone who speaks to your soul.”

With Gladden, a typical coaching round lasts about 12 weeks and has six sessions. 

“It’s hard to envision the future. We work together to set challenging goals – with each session having its own flavour,” said Gladden. “We also have a celebration of what was accomplished.” 

The sessions are geared to the needs of each individual. For some, it could be helping navigate co-parenting or boundaries, for others, it could be dating and others exploring career options.

“It’s an intimidating process to start dating again. There are so many people to date, you will find someone. And if you don’t want to, then don’t. You can come back to that later – or not.”

To connect with Gladden she offers “discovery calls.” 

“It’s a 30-minute call where we can get to know each other. I hope everyone goes away with a useful nugget. I feel like if more people talk about these transitions then women can have more freedom of choice.”

To learn more about Gladden and her practice visit her website or follow her on Instagram

Images courtesy of Michele Mateus

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.

Life goals at any age

Barrie Street believes big goals matter. It’s essential motivation to live a full life. He is already planning his second TedTalk – for his 90th birthday. Street plans to complete his 3000th Grouse Grind on his 95th birthday. After that, it’s to make his 200th blood donation on his 105th birthday. The fitness enthusiast and volunteer advocate is proving an old dog can most definitely learn new tricks. 

Ready for a challenge

Barrie Street is feisty at 87 years old. To hear him tell his story it sounds like he has always been resilient and determined. A traumatic childhood where he was abandoned at six years old gave him a tenaciousness that has served him well. He fell in love with team sports like cricket, field hockey and soccer, and with that started a lifelong passion for moving his body. 

“Fitness has incalculable benefits,” said Street. “It’s my passion. I can’t imagine a life with a passion.”

Street has an incredible life resume: math teacher, marathoner, blogger, Iron Man, TedTalker, volunteer . . . In recent months he has added pickleballer. Some of these pursuits came naturally and some he had to fight for.

Open to new ideas

The opportunity to take on a new challenge or learn something new will be far more rewarding than succeeding at something you are already good at, said Street.

“I was running marathons in my 40s, then around 45 I got an Iron Man [triatholon] craving,” said Street. “But at 50 I couldn’t swim a stroke. It took me three months to swim a length. Over the next three months, I learned to swim 64 lengths – a mile. But it took me an hour and a half. In the next three months, I learned to swim that mile in 30 minutes and thought I was ready for Iron Man.”

Street says it was work – some of the hardest of his life. 

“It was the most challenging thing I have ever done – much harder than a marathon or an Iron Man. It was humbling to the nth degree. To start from nowhere and succeed makes it the most rewarding.”

As he approaches 90 he is still living by the goal to learn something new. He and a pal picked up some pickleball paddles recently and are getting a feel for the sport – “It’s good fun.”

He also took to the stage last fall for a TedxTalk sharing his passion for volunteering – which also has a poignant theme of valuing people society has written off. 

Getting started and trying again

With accomplishments like more than 50,000 kilometres of running and 2400 Grouse Grinds, Street has set himself up for long-term health and fitness. He has also learned lessons that life doesn’t always play fair. He took a painful hit almost four years ago.

“February 6th. I wanted a change from my usual route so I decided to walk up Lonsdale. I parked midway up and started walking. Just after leaving the top, I was hit by a car coming down an incline from the side of a house. I broke 12 bones.”

Prior to that, at 83, he was walking 10km daily, worked out at the gym three times a week and did the Grind twice a week. After the accident, Street had to start again. He still is working to get back where he was. 

“We can all be fit. We can adapt to pain,” he said. “The main step is to try and to be positive.”

On his blog Street very practical advice for adding fitness into your life. Simple steps like exercises to support balance and mobility. It’s a wealth of information that makes fitness success approachable.

“My advice for anyone getting started is to consult your doctor and get guidance on your abilities,” he said. “Set individual goals, there is no point comparing yourself to someone else – they have a different set of circumstances. Long-term goals are essential to have something to look forward to and short-term goals are needed to accomplish the long-term goals.” 

While Street regards fitness as essential, he recognizes not everyone loves it as much as he does. 

“Have a passion – spend time doing something you can’t imagine your life without – that will give you enthusiasm for life.”

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.

Thriving creative community

Lynn has a reputation for attracting creative types. Tucked away from the city the river was an early weekend getaway from Vancouver’s big city drawing artists to the forested oasis. Today’s artists and creators walk the same paths of The Group of Seven’s Frederick Varley. Both our feature profiles from this month – Vanessa Gladden and Barrie Street – have strong digital footprints. In that spirit, we have put together a list of five makers and creators worth checking out. 

Four to follow

We have put together a group of four people to follow. Some we have featured before and others are new. We are excited to nudge you in the direction of learning more about the interesting people that make Lynn Valley home.

 Eve Lazarus – Website – With a longstanding journalism career under her belt and 10 books (everything from true crime to travel guides) Eve Lazarus has a lot on the go. Her Instagram is a must for anyone who loves Vancouver’s history. Every post is a glimpse into an intriguing past These posts sometimes get picked up by local websites – follow her and get it straight from the source often with links to her website for more detailed blog posts. For those who love true crime, Lazarus’ books and podcasts are worth picking up and downloading. If you like what you see Lazarus is an active participant in local and regional writers festivals. 

Duane Murrin – Instagram – artist – We call all but guarantee you have seen artist Duane Murrin’s work. His Lynn Canyon image graced the street banners on Lynn Valley Road in 2021. His use of bold colours make his Instagram a wonder for the eyes. Murrin has worked with many partners over the years to get his art to the masses from skis to kombucha cans to his own estore, his works scream south coast – and we love it. 

Lynn Valley Forge  – Instagram – Artisan Casey Vilensky takes metal and makes functional art with awe-inspiring knives. Keeping alive the age-old craft of blacksmithing his work happens in our local hills. He has a newer partnership making knives under the brand Zensky Cutlery. They also do an annual fundraiser for the NICU at BC Women’s Hospital. Beautiful work no matter how you slice it. 

Ben Hemara – Instagram – Local chainsaw carver Ben Hemara has been revealing the inner spirit of logs and stumps for the last few years. His growing client base and competition successes make for a stunning Instagram feed. There are also some works in stumps along a handful of Lynn Valley trails

A bonus account worth a follow is Lynn Valley and CBC’s Johana Wagstaffe. Her Instagram feed is a delightful mix of science, family, dogs and Lynn Valley parks. In the past, we have spoken to Wagstaffe about her life and Lynn Valley’s unique weather.

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.

Shop local this season

At this time of year, through all the hustle and bustle there are holiday solutions right in our own backyards. From quality caterers to specialty artists to great small shops. Lynn Valley has a thriving scene of makers, crafters, creators and business people offering great options to make your holidays more meaningful and more relaxing. 

Handmade with love

A knife from Lynn Valley Forge

We put the call out on our Facebook page asking for local entrepreneurs to share their small local shops.  We got a bunch of solid suggestions that we have shared before like Folia and Lynn Valley Forge.  We also got plenty of new suggestions.

In an effort to keep the list up to date and have an opportunity for others to add thier businesses or recommendations, we are redirecting you to our FB posts. They have a great list of holiday solutions in the comments. Check out this one for local crafters and makers and this one for local small businesses and services.

Check out our seasonal picks from past years (not all small businesses may remain active). Here are our picks from 2021.

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.

Local authors make must read list

Just in time for the wet grey days of winter, the North Shore libraries have just released their annual list: the North Shore Writers Collection. With the help of the North Vancouver District Library, we have pulled out six Lynn Valley authors who are proudly on this year’s list.

A dark story for dark nights

With her first book on the list, Rhonda Mailey warns you might be left with more than a good story after reading her suspense horror novel Reginald

“Reginald seems to have a presence of his own. I hear from readers all the time and they tell me they sense him – like they are walking down the street and feel him hiding behind a bush. Even my writing coach: she was hearing noises in her bathroom and she thought that it could be Reginald in the walls,” laughs Mailey. “I thought: ‘For heaven’s sake it could be a mouse’.” 

The novel is set in a fictional BC coastal community called Einer’s Bay. When Leah, a busy career-driven Vancouverite, inherits a grand home she has experiences she can’t explain. With the help of local community protectors called the Guardians, they encounter Reginald – a demon born from despicable and tortured beginnings. 

“I’ve always had a little bit of a twisted mind. I am not a big fan of horror per se, I was more interested in mysteries. Reginald popped into my head one day and I thought I would see where it would go,” said Mailey. “I am not a writer who plans – it was really just the story that came to me. It’s about people. It’s about the characters and tension and the humanity of Reginald.” 

Mailey has some heavy hitters on her side. She worked with CKNW broadcaster John McComb to voice and produce the audiobook and artist Alejandro Colucci – known for The Witcher series –  for the cover and illustrations

Mailey has another book nearing publication and the sequel to Reginald is in the editing stage, plus she has two children’s books she hopes to make it to print in the near future. 

“I have always been a voracious reader. I remember being at Eastview Elementary and sitting under a tree to read Nancy Drew after Nancy Drew. I just loved to read,” she said. “I was quite touched to be a part [of the North Shore Writer’s List]. It was nice to have everyone together. It’s no surprise, there are a lot of talented and creative people on the North Shore.” 

More Lynn Valley authors on the list

My BIG Floofy Feet by Judy Bjornson

This is a sweet story told by a loveable cat whose extra toes and giant feet give him many abilities in life that he otherwise would not have had. Respecting both the similarities and the differences in each other, opens doors to making new friends, learning new things, and having more self-confidence. The storybook is intended to empower all children to accept and love each other unconditionally the way they are and to let their inner aspirations flourish.

Judy is a Master Trainer both for exercises in the water and on land. Due to her genuine compassion and extensive disease/disability knowledge as it relates to rehabilitation/movement, Judy was selected as a Program Co-ordinator by the Vancouver Brain Injury Association. In all aspects of her life Judy strives to positively affect the lives of those she encounters. She decided to write a book from a kitty’s point of view to communicate with young children because perhaps the most powerful path to healing for our children is through animals. A second book in the series of three introduces new characters with their own differences and teaches the value of how each of us contributes with our unique abilities to make the work a better place will soon be published. The illustrator, Sydney Kosnik was only 16 years old when she illustrated the book, winning an award for her illustrations and character design in New York.

On Foot in France by France Fehr

France and her husband Stephen had just turned 60 when they began their journey on the Camino de Santiago in France. On each of the 39 days, they knew they would always do three things: walk, eat, and sleep. The historic trail took them through breathtaking landscapes and picturesque villages, offering them magical moments and ample time to think. But, walking the 800 kilometres was also a challenge, especially when France injured her foot and quitting was not an option. On Foot in France is an inspiring story of courage, determination, and friendship on the path shared by countless pilgrims.

France Fehr was born in Quebec and has lived in North Vancouver for over three decades. She has travelled around North America, Europe, and Asia, taking many photographs to share on Flickr, Instagram, and her blogs. When she is not on a trail in Europe, she keeps fit while hiking or cycling in British Columbia. On Foot in France, a travel memoir of her adventure on the Camino de Santiago is her first book.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke

Jane Sinner, a 17-year-old dropout, sets out to redefine herself through a series of schemes and stunts, including participating in a low-budget reality TV show at her local community college.

Lianne Oelke has a degree in philosophy and works in the film industry – which may explain a lot about her debut novel, Nice Try, Jane Sinner. Or not. She lives, camps, and thinks about cats in North Vancouver.

Child Sex Trafficking in Canada and How To Stop It by Catherine Peters

Child Sex Trafficking in Canada is a primer or textbook and immersive study into the dark world of trafficking for prostitution in Canada. Its reach is universal as trafficking is a global problem. Research, resources, and solutions are provided throughout the book with the goal for the reader to learn how to stop sexual exploitation locally and nationally.

Cathy Peters is a former inner-city high school teacher from British Columbia. She is a wife, a mother of three remarkable children, a business partner, a public speaker and an author. Cathy lives with her husband Allan in North Vancouver, BC.

Philosophy’s Role in Counseling and Psychotherapy by Peter Raabe

The book’s purpose is to show how philosophy is a useful addition to the knowledge counsellors and psychotherapists already have. Clients often need a way to look at what is troubling them that peels back the layering put there by the way they are used to thinking about their problems. Philosophy gives them important tools to aid them in the process of discovering how to get to the heart of what they are seeking help for.

Peter B. Raabe received his P.H.D. in 1999 from U.B.C. He began his teaching career at the University of the Fraser Valley in 2003 teaching philosophy. He published a book in 2014 titled, Philosophy’s Role in Counseling and Psychotherapy, which became the textbook for a unique course he developed called Philosophy for Counsellors. Peter retired in 2021 and was awarded Professor Emeritus status. He lives in North Vancouver with his wife.

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.

Good Neighbour 2023: Maureen Bragg

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.