Rod Deakin-Drown was intrigued by local history, especially the story of the BC Electric Railway. He knew that the Burnaby Lake Interurban Line operated between East Vancouver and Sapperton (1911 to 1953) and old maps showed the route going through the Cariboo Heights forest. Rod was certain that there had to be remnants of it somewhere between Craig Avenue and Cariboo Road.
In the spring of 2015, Rod bushwhacked up a small trail off of Craig Avenue. The trail angled right and then Rod realized that he was following an overgrown rail line. The level surface was covered in track ballast and the railbed gently curved as it contoured around the hill. Rod even found a few aged railway spikes amidst the leaf debris. He hiked the rail bed to Cariboo Road and was enchanted by the beautiful second growth forest on either side. Further research revealed that the forest was zoned for development under the 1987 Cariboo Heights Community Development Plan. Rod was determined to preserve the trail and the surrounding forest.
To connect with like minded people, Rod tied notices to trees along the forest trail and distributed leaflets to the Cariboo Heights neighbourhood. He invited interested residents to a meeting and about 80 people showed up to talk about preserving the forest.
Many residents knew about the trail but not its history. Transportation historian Henry Ewert presented a slideshow on the Burnaby Lake Interurban Line. A small group formed as a result of that meeting and became the Old Interurban Forest Preservation Society. The society was incorporated in the fall of 2015. The original group included some of our present day board members—Carol Chrisjohn, Aruna Khan and David Hodge.
Group members and friends worked on clearing the overgrown trail and hosted annual Jane’s Walks to educate the community about the forest.
In 2017, board members presented their argument for preserving the Cariboo Heights forest to the Planning and Development Committee of Burnaby City Council. Although there was no response from the City at that point, the members were not discouraged and continued to advocate and educate.
Rod’s story is connected with the forest in another unique way. The romantic atmosphere created by the moss draped bigleaf maples made the forest the ideal setting for Rod’s wedding to Isabelle Ancelet, from France.
A bridge, now dubbed ‘Isabelle’s Bridge’, was decorated for the ceremony. Surrounded by their cherished friends, Rod and Isabelle celebrated the start of their new life together.
Rod was the founder and President of the Old Interurban Forest Preservation Society from 2015 – 2019. Although Rod has since moved to Golden, BC, his legacy and mission continue. Under the new society name, the Cariboo Heights Forest Preservation Society, the current members carry his vision forward.