Glenayre not immune to changing times

Derek Wilson came for the mountain vista. He stayed for the neighbourhood.

Now, 20 years later, he’s become the unofficial historian of Port Moody’s Glenayre neighbourhood in the shadow of Burnaby Mountain as the community prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary on July 14.

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Wilson said he and his wife were first attracted to the 1950s-era subdivision of single-family homes on curvaceous streets because of its proximity to the trails of nearby Burnaby Mountain along its western edge. But they discovered the placid suburban oasis extended beyond the forested slopes across the expansive lawns and through the gardens of the planned community.

“There’s only two streets to get into and out of the neighbourhood, so it’s somewhat cut off,” Wilson said.

The lack of through streets slowed the pace of life because anyone driving in Glenayre also lived there. Plus motorists always have to be vigilant of pedestrians, as the neighbourhood has no sidewalks.

Glenayre was originally supposed to be much busier and more dense. When developers bought the 465-acre tract of forest from the city at $100 an acre in the mid-1950s, they proposed to build 1,500 homes, which would have doubled Port Moody’s population of 2,700. But low capacity in the sewer and water lines forced them to scale back their plans to 500 homes.

As the car was king back then, there was no provision for retail or services in the development; residents could drive up North Road to Burquitlam or to the Golden Mile along Columbia Street in neighbouring New Westminster to fill the trunks of their Buicks with everything they needed.

Instead, Glenayre school became the community’s focal point, where neighbours congregated twice a day delivering and retrieving their kids from classes, stopping to exchange news and gossip.

Wilson said many childhood friendships have been formed at Art Wilkinson Park, where an old pile of dirt becomes a defacto toboggan hill in snowy winters, and at the spray pool in Ailsa Park.

Teenagers hung out and copped cigarettes at Ky’s Convenience Store at the corner of Glenayre Drive and Clarke Road. It closed two years ago.

Wilson said an active community association has also worked hard to keep the neighbourly vibe alive by organizing events like an annual Easter egg hunt, Halloween fireworks display and summer picnic. In 1993, residents even banded together to build a new community centre that houses space for a pre-school, events and meetings.

“It’s activities like that that bring out residents, create a basic sense of community,” Wilson said. “It’s  a greater sense of friendliness and empathy.”

But how much longer it can last in the face of rising property values that limit opportunities for young families to buy homes in the neighbourhood is anybody’s guess, Wilson said. 

Already there are pockets where properties have been sold and the new owners have elected to replace their mid-century single-storey rancher with expansive dwellings shrouded by fences and high hedges. 

“It’s kind of a harbinger of changing times,” he said. “We’re not immune.”

• Glenayre will celebrate its 60th anniversary as part of Glenayre Day, the neighbourhood’s annual picnic at the Glenayre Community Centre (492 Glencoe Dr.) on July 14, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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