I have this long lost memory of being a little girl and my parents driving me out to McDonald Beach to have a picnic. The last time I visited McDonald Beach, it was probably in the early 80's. The memory's fuzzy. It was a community picnic or an Easter egg hunt, I think. I must have been no older than four.
Skip ahead 26 years.
After a particularly eventful weekend, Sunday was our chance to chill, relax, and recover. We found ourselves going out for a leisurely drive, meandering through the East Van side streets, admiring the cherry blossoms and the houses and the views of the North Shore mountains. Super chill.
I was seeking inspiration for an outing, taking W 16th to Fraser, then down Fraser to 33rd, then up along Kingsway, then down Victoria, and eventually back west along W 49th. Queen Elizabeth Park? Trout Lake? Punjabi Market? It was after 6pm. Josh suggested we end at Jericho to catch the sunset. At that point we were closer to Kerrisdale. I had another idea. I decided to drive to the airport instead.
McDonald Beach (labeled "Woods Island Park" on Google Maps) is a Richmond city park tucked away in the north-west corner of Sea Island, just north of the Vancouver Airport at the end of McDonald Road.
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A tad off the beaten path would be an understatement, although it's easy to get to with a car. It's part boat launch, part off-leash dog park, part sandy beach, and part estuary forest. It sits hidden from civilization on the north arm of the Fraser River, across from Vancouver's Fraser River Park. Prior to colonization, it was the heart of the largest Musqueam Nation village.
Most Vancouverites don't even know McDonald Beach exists, or that a significant chunk of Sea Island was once known as Eburne, and sustained a proper community until the development of the Vancouver Airport drove them into exile.
After finding the correct road (drive towards YVR, exit on Templeton Street, and hook up to Ferguson Road which takes you to McDonald), we soon arrived at McDonald Beach, and it was really like going back in time to Richmond of my little girl memories: the smell of the Fraser and the cottonwoods. The sounds of the boats and birds. Dogs running through the fields. The smoky smell of the air and the earthy smell of the sand. Rogue logs and yellow Scotch broom. Airplanes taking off and distant views of the Lions.
We strolled up and down along the river, enjoying the tranquility and the rediscovery of this seemingly hidden park which, despite being seconds away from the airport, seemed to be far away from Vancouver as we knew it.
Next stop? Iona Park. To be continued.