Coopers’ Park and the Cambie Bridge might feel like typical city spaces, but they have a rich history marked by ice, fire, steel, art, and yes, salmon.
For several millennia, the land that became Vancouver was buried beneath a two-kilometre-thick ice slab. First Peoples began appearing as the ice melted, revealing a rain-soaked ecosystem of plants and animals. At least 10,000 years ago, the area that is now Vancouver was occupied by three Salishan groups: Squamish (Skwxwú7mesh), Tsliel-waututh, and the Musqueam (Xwméthkwyiem).
Pacific salmon have always been inseparable from the culture, spirituality and livelihood of many First Nations.
They were the first stewards, catching and curing fish to provide year-round sustenance, trading their catch with other groups, and honouring salmon (and their lifecycle) through ceremonies and traditions that still occur today. As recently as 150 years ago, the waters that flow beneath the Cambie Bridge were still a rich repository of sea life.
The Cambie Bridge that supports UNINTERRUPTED was opened in 1985, but it’s the third bridge to connect the south shore of False Creek with downtown Vancouver. The first version was a pile-timber trestle with a middle swing span, which opened in 1891. The next bridge was a four-lane, medium-level steel span that carried streetcar tracks. The current Cambie Bridge opened in late 1985, just in time for Vancouver to host Expo 86.
For all the engineers out there, it’s a twin post-tensioned, pre-stressed concrete structure in a continuous span. The bridge is 1,100 metres long, with six lanes of traffic and a pedestrian walkway. For the rest of us? The underside of this busy bridge is the perfect place to experience UNINTERRUPTED.
This lively urban park was named for the Sweeney Coooperage and Sawmill, which operated on the site from 1889 until 1981. If you’ve never heard of a “cooperage,” it’s a barrel manufacturer – and this was once the largest in the British Empire. Barrels made here were used to ship products all over the world – from strawberries in the one-quart sizes to 800-pound casks of whiskey, beer and cured salmon. The cooperage and mill closed to make way for the construction of BC Place and the new Cambie Bridge. Coopers’ Park officially opened in 1997 and the skate park was added in 2003, with a playground and recreational area that has also grown around it.
The area in and around Coopers’ Park is also home to a number of public art pieces and installations. Most notably, you’ll see A False Creek (2012) by Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky. The blue painted strips on the Cambie Bridge pilings and 15 lampposts around the seawall mark the midpoint of the projected sea level rise, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (afalsecreek.ca).
Stroll a little further and you’ll see images on shelters and chairs overlooking the seawall. This is Lookout (1999) by Christos Dikeakos and Noel Best, which traces the site’s natural and industrial history. At the shoreline west of the Cambie Bridge, you’ll find Time Top (2006) by Jerry Pethick. This barnacle-encrusted bronze sculpture looks like a 1940s-style space ship, and represents fantasies about history and time travel.
For more information about public art in the Yaletown and False Creek areas, visit: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/public-art-brochure-yaletown.pdf
Free viewing takes place at Coopers’ Park for audiences up to 800 people, thanks to support from our generous partners. The event runs Tuesday through Saturday, from June 28 – Sept 24, 2017. Learn More