Coquitlam values history and today
Coquitlam is larger than Port Moody and Port Coquitlam, the cities with which it forms the Tri-Cities, in Metro Vancouver. People from almost every part of the globe live in Coquitlam, whose suburban neighbourhoods lie short distances from mountains, nature trails, parks and lakes.
Coquitlam is one of B.C.’s fastest growing suburbs and had an average growth rate of 2.6 percent between 2011 and 2015, which is among the highest in Metro Vancouver. Approximately 144,668 people lived Coquitlam in 2015.
The Evergreen Line, a commuter train that opened in December 2016, makes it more convenient to travel from Coquitlam to the City of Vancouver, which is located 32 kilometres to the east, represents the economic connection between the two cities. Coquitlam is the sixth-largest city in the province and is one of 21 municipalities that form Metro Vancouver.
The Evergreen Line connects with the rest of the commuter rail system in Metro Vancouver and drastically reduces travel time from Coquitlam (green line) to Vancouver (part of red, blue and yellow lines).
Location and History
Coquitlam lies north of the Fraser River in the Lower Mainland and is an ancestral home of the Coast Salish people who were displaced by European settlers in the 1860s. The main employer of the small town in the late 19th century was Fraser Mills, a logging company.
In 1910, the need for workers at the mills led to the migration of people from Quebec. The new residents of Coquitlam settled in an area that became known as Maillardville and today houses from the era and Our Lady of Lourdes, the church of the historic former Francophone neighbourhood, are preserved as part of the city’s heritage program. I’m also an historian and when I went with a friend to see Maillardville, I was glad to see the heritage homes that the city has preserved and old houses that home owners have not demolished for modern houses.
The local city council currently consists of Mayor Richard Stewart and eight councillors and the elected officials serve a four-year term. The structure of the local government includes advisory committees that have one or more councillors and members of the public. The Coquitlam school board, Schoool District 43, is the third largest in B.C. and oversees 45 elementary schools, 14 middle schools and 11 secondary schools.
Natural Surroundings and Services
Councillor Terry O’Neill has been on the city council for six years and became an elected official because he enjoyed serving the public when he was on the board of a non-profit organization.
“It was [serving] on a non-profit board that got me interested in serving the public and that was the Coquitlam Foundation Board,” O’Neill said. Before he entered politics, O’Neill worked as a political reporter for 35 years.
O’Neill serves on four of the city’s advisory committees that include members of the public. Advisory committees are a vital way for the council and city staff to receive advice from the public on various plans. O’Neill said the multicultural advisory committee works to enhance harmony among people of different cultures and helps to ensure that different cultures are considered in city projects.
“[The city has] neighbourhood plans or strategies dealing with arts and culture, dealing with heritage or dealing with parks,” O’Neill said. “If the city is developing a park, the committee says to keep in mind what this or that cultural community likes to do in parks.”
Nature and parks in Coquitlam is one of the reasons Kathleen Tennant enjoys living in the Coquitlam.
“Oh gosh you’re really close to Buntzen Lake or Lafarge Lake,” Tennant said. “There’s so many parks.”
Residents are also well served with community services and three community centres, Poirier, Pinetree and Summit, that have programs for people of different age groups.
“Senior centres, there’s swimming pools, there’s fitness locations,” Tennant said. “There’s stuff for kids, seniors, all ages really, and in different parts of Coquitlam.”
Retail, services, manufacturing, technology, transportation and construction are the different types of businesses that are located throughout Coquitlam mainly in the downtown, central, west and south areas.
Monika Zuber, owner of Lassethetic Salon, enjoys being a business owner in Coquitlam but said rental costs are an issue.
“Rent is really really high and there is nothing the city can do about that, but maybe a tax deduction or something in the future because the rent is killing the small business,” said Zuber who has owned her holistic day spa for four years.
Zuber said the city is growing and the expanding urban area is attracting more businesses. Still, she likes being in Coquitlam because she enjoys her clients.
“Competition is becoming bigger and bigger but overall the clientele is very nice,” Zuber said.
One of the fastest growing areas of Coquitlam is Burke Mountain on the northeast side of the city. Newly built single-family homes and townhouses flank roadways have been built to connect new neighbourhoods that have been attracting home buyers.
O’Neill said it’s important for the city to preserve green spaces on Burke Mountain and keeping green spaces is one of the items that the sustainability and environmental advisory committee can advise council on.
Development on Burke Mountain is adding to the city’s housing stock but has drawn opposition from local residents who want to preserve the natural landscape.
Demand for homes in Coquitlam had led to an increase in house prices and Tennant is shocked at the price of average homes.
“We live in a neighbourhood that shouldn’t be a million-dollar neighbourhood but it is,” Tennant said.
The city has a housing affordability strategy and one of the plan’s key goals is to increase the stock of three-bedroom market rental units.
Because it is a fast-growing city and because development becomes concentrated around transit hubs, one of the city council’s priorities is to review neighbourhoods near transit stops of the Evergreen Line.
“The city is in the process of updating its Burquitlam and Lougheed neighbourhood plan and those updates are needed specifically because of the Evergreen Line,” O’Neill said. “And as part of that update we have plans for a new trail system, for extended bicycle lanes, need for new parks and things like that.”
Kinder Morgan Pipeline
Coquitlam lies in the pathway of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. The pipeline does not fall under the city’s jurisdiction but the city council is concerned about the pipeline’s effect on the environment.
“The city is engaged to ensure any environmental impact or business impact, so primarily it’s a lot [about] environmental concern, about disruption to existing streams in Coquitlam,” O’Neill said.
Annual Canada Day Celebration
Every July 1, residents of every age turn out for Canada Day celebrations at Lafarge Lake in Coquitlam. The city’s Multicultural Advisory Committee is actively involved with the celebration and takes the opportunity to meet and talk to the city’s residents.
“At Canada Day they engage people, find out where they’re from, what they love about Canada,” O’Neill said.
Getting to Canada Day festivities this year will be more convenient because trains on the Evergreen Line run to Lafarge Lake and public use of the commuter rail will reduce congestion on the road and in parking areas.
Cultural heritage, urban development and environmenal protection are key concerns in Coquitlam, an old yet modern city.