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Japanese Bridge restoration envisioned for Bridal Veil Falls

Heritage project has wide-ranging support so far
A photo of the original Japanese Bridge at Bridal Veil Falls, constructed in 1914.

A new heritage project honouring Japanese-Canadians is being discussed for development in Crippen Park.

During council last month a delegation from the Japanese Canadian Legacies Society (JCLS) appeared to present their vision for building a heritage bridge at Bridal Veil Falls. The location, along the Alder Grove Trail, had previously been the site of a Japanese Bridge constructed in 1914. The proposed project would seek to emulate the original, created over a century ago by Daikichi Koga and a team with the Terminal Steamship Company.

Susanne Tabata of the JCLS explained how historically Bowen Island and Howe Sound had lively Japanese-Canadian communities, as did many cities and towns in BC, prior to the outbreak of World War II. But in 1942, under federal orders, the internment of anyone of Japanese origin began in the province which saw more than 20,000 people forcibly displaced to camps in interior BC and across the country, in many cases separating families.

Property including cars and homes were confiscated and sold off. Thousands of people were also deported to Japan. It wasn’t until 1949 that movement restrictions on Japanese-Canadians were lifted, but many never returned to their pre-internment homes.

This dark part of Canadian history has been the subject of different redress attempts over time, including a $100 million pledge by the BC provincial government in 2022. This package, overseen by the JCLS, is meant to support projects which honour and uplift the Japanese community. Projects cover a variety of areas, including education, seniors health, community and culture, anti-racism, and in this case, heritage restoration.

Tabata, who was approached by Bowen resident Ellen Hayakawa about a potential project on the island, said she’s excited about the possibility of bridge restoration. But Tabata added she’s hoping the community will be behind the project too. “There is this idea of resuscitating and renewing the Japanese-Canadian heritage piece, but it has to fit with the lifestyle and the overall improvements that could be made to the island, for the sake of Islanders that not only live here but visit as well – all wrapped in some kind of strong message to the past and what’s happened, and remembering those people who were here in the past,” she said.

The Japanese Bridge as it stood more than a century ago. / Bowen Island Community Heritage Register

During a recent site visit various Bowen groups expressed support for the project, including the Heritage Commission, Museum & Archives, the municipality, and Islands Trust. The bridge would also need the go-ahead from Metro Vancouver since it would be located in Crippen Park. Mayor Andrew Leonard, a board member with the organization, said he’d discuss the project with them.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea. Looking through the archives there’s some really wonderful pictures, both of the bridge and the community and some of the work community members were doing at the time before the internment happened,” said Coun. Judith Gedye.

“I think that increasing the education and the knowledge about that – there was very strong collaborative community work happening before the war and internment… I think this kind of project with the information panels and everything else would be good for us and good for honouring the history,” added Gedye.

The proposal was sent to the Heritage Commission and Parks, Trails, and Greenways Advisory Committee for feedback, including comment on whether there would be any environmental impact on the fish which use the creek the bridge would sit over. It also remains to be seen who would oversee construction and maintenance of the bridge.