British Columbia

Belcarra cabin residents fight eviction from Metro Vancouver park

Jo Ledingham's small cabin on shores of Burrard Inlet in Belcarra Regional Park has few amenities. There's no dishwasher, and no washer and dryer, but for her, there's nowhere she'd rather live.

Metro Vancouver has plans to demolish the seven waterfront cabins in Belcarra Regional Park

Jo Ledingham and her daughter Andrea stand outside Ledingham's waterfront cabin in Belcarra Regional Park in this photo taken earlier this month. She said she doesn't know where she will go. (Jason D'Souza/CBC)

Jo Ledingham's small cabin the shores of Burrard Inlet in Belcarra Regional Park has few amenities. There's no dishwasher, and no washer and dryer, but for her, there's nowhere she'd rather live.

"I joke sometimes, and say, 'I don't need to die and go to heaven, I'm already here.' It's heavenly here," she says.

Ledingham decided the cabin was home more than 50 years ago, when she was just in her early 20s.

"We came out for a walk, in November. It was rainy, it was cold. The house was in real bad shape. There were no windows, there was no furniture, and I said, 'I want to live there.'"

Ledingham and her husband went about securing a lease for the cabin, and moved in with their two young children in in 1964. 

Now, the 73-year-old may be forced to leave. Her home, along with six others that line the shore, are owned by Metro Vancouver, which has plans to demolish the cabins.

Residents have been given until the end of the month to move out, but she still has hope she will be allowed to stay. 

She's set to make a presentation tonight to Metro Vancouver's Parks Committee, hoping to change the path of the wrecking ball. She says residents have support from municipal politicians, and from the public.

Facing the wrecking ball

This isn't the first time Ledingham has been told she may have to move. The land the cabins sit on was expropriated by Metro Vancouver in 1971, a move that came with an eviction notice.

"We got a letter or a phone call saying would we move our belongings out of the houses because they were taking them over and they were going to be demolished."

At that time, residents of the cabins formed the Belcarra South Preservation Society, in hopes of saving their homes.

"We said, 'Why would you take the cottages down? We look after them, we maintain them, it's no cost to you, we provide security, there are no fires, no policing issues,'" says Ledingham.

Residents won, and in 1976, they signed their first lease with Metro Vancouver.

Then two years ago, in 2012, residents received notice the cabins would be inspected.

"We were all quite nervous and we worked really hard to make sure everything was as up to snuff as it could possibly be," says Ledingham.

In February of 2013, residents received notice their lease was being terminated, and the cabins would be torn down.

"I was devastated," says Ledingham. "We were all devastated. We felt terrible."

Metro Vancouver has cited liability concerns over the cabins. It also says it wants to improve access to the beach, and expand the park. 

Ledingham admits that if residents are allowed to stay, it will mean some changes to their quiet lifestyles.

"We can't afford to stay here in the kind of solitude that we've had in the past. We really must become part of a park experience and share it, or we probably don't have a right to stay."

Metro Vancouver declined to comment until after today's meeting.

Google maps: Belcarra Regional Park

with files from Jason D'Souza


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