I wandered through Crescent Beach, BC today and remembered how different it was when I was a child. I then recalled my grandfathers stories about White Rock beach, and how it had been when he was a child. At five years old, he would run down to the beach every morning and go crabbing with his brother all day long. There were only a few houses scattered across the steep hill leading down to the beach. Today the hillside is packed with beautiful beach residences. My mom looked down at the tidepools from the pier a couple days back, and told me she was sad to see sand filling them up, most of the life that used to be inside them gone. It made me want to record what Crescent Beach looks like today, so I can remember it years from now.
Driving along Crescent Road to get to the beach, a number of massive homes with steely gates have been built. They feel untouchable but somehow still blend in, mixed with older homes. You can just see the ocean (or is it the Nicklemeckle River?) through the trees on the right. I pass Crescent Park, remembering the soccer games I used to play there. I pass a bread bakery that started up in my childhood, and think I should pick up some bread there later. Driving over the railroad tracks, little shops and restaurants signal my arrival to the beach. Some old, some new. The sides of the roads in this area almost feel like they just fade into the earth, with grassy edges. Nothing feels overly done-up. The breakfast place on the left hand side still feels homey – with a huge flowery mural on the side of the building.
Today at Crescent there is a mix of old and new homes. Some towering new mansions with huge decks overlooking the sea. Some tiny, ramshackles places with caving in roofs and overgrown greenery. Some rare empty lots where nature has been left to go about her business. I wonder how long they’ll be there? Parking is free and there is usually a spot to be found. The old building where I used to go to Brownies is still there. Families wander along the gravel seaside path eating ice cream cones. Kids make sand castles and play in the tide pools. White sandy shell pieces, mixed with pebbles and mussel shells line the shore. Runners run, chatty, neighbours walk their dogs, residents sit on their porches and mow their lawns, visitors grace the benches looking out at the oceans. I often wonder, when I run along Crescent’s beach path, who has always been here. When I look at the smaller homes, I hope that they never go away. I want this beach to belong to the people it has always belonged to. This makes me wonder, to whom does Crescent Beach really belong? I wish we could give it back to herself.
Blackie’s Spit is still there, indicated by an old, fading sign next to the entrance. It’s still black muddy, flat. Locals fly kites along its edges. I run there, along the sandy path, remembering my grandma. The few people I see out on the spit feel like they belong. They blend into the landscape. They sit on the sand in quiet conversation. I stop, walk, feel my heart open up to this beautiful place that still feels like home.
Crescent Beach has many signs of the upwardly mobile. New shops have opened in the last decade, including a Wired Monk in a beautiful cedar building with a patio so guests can sit out in the sunlight. There is a new sushi shop I just noticed today. I bought an ice cream cone from the lady at Red Baron who I remember served me ice cream when I was in grade 3. The whole family is there, working in that restaurant. Sometimes one of them is there, sometimes five… they all appear just when they’re needed, as if they can sense the number of customers from their home just upstairs from the place. There is a lovely little yoga studio I’ve gotten to know. The ladies that run it have heart.
One of my favourite parts of visiting the Crescent is wandering the little alleyways behind the beach path, giving access to the beach houses from behind. It’s these back alleys that give you a feel for the local residents. Seeing their driveways, back gardens, storage of sea kayaks and canoes… seeing hats and jackets hanging from hooks, blooms on flowers recently planted, pieces of driftwood, lights on in back rooms, hoses running along the ground as if they just finished watering something. I like these subtle human signs of life.