Proposal for Navvy Jack Nature Centre


The District has an opportunity to honour a significant heritage asset by giving it new life as a nature centre to support education and awareness of our rich cultural heritage and natural environment. It could be a space to both honour the past and encourage stewardship of our natural assets for future generations.

Community Consultation

The District wants to know:

  • Does the community support the concept of a West Vancouver nature centre?
  • Does the community support locating a nature centre on the waterfront?
  • Does the community support restoring the heritage house known as Navvy Jack House for the nature centre, or building a new facility?
  • Does the community support using Community Amenity Contribution funds to create a nature centre?

Please keep reading for an explanation of this proposal and then take the survey to share your input.


Information Meetings

Learn more about this site and the proposal at an information meeting.

Note: The information meeting for Saturday, September 14 is cancelled due to rain and rescheduled to Saturday, September 21.

  • Tuesday, September 17, 10 a.m.–12 p.m., West Vancouver Memorial Library, lobby area, 1950 Marine Drive
  • Saturday, September 21, 10 a.m.–12 p.m., John Lawson Park
  • Tuesday, September 24, 4–6:30 p.m., West Vancouver Community Centre, Lalji Family Atrium, 2121 Marine Drive

Who was Navvy Jack?

The house at 1768 Argyle Avenue was built by Navvy Jack. Navvy Jack’s real name was John Thomas, and he came from Wales in about 1860. He played a key role in British Columbia's pioneer history and bought the property on the West Vancouver waterfront to build a home for his new bride in approximately 1874. He was known for many "firsts", including operating the first by-request ferry service from Vancouver to Ambleside in 1866. His home was the location of the first post office, church service and wedding ceremony in West Vancouver. He ran a gravel business and a specific mix of sand and gravel is still named after him.

Navvy Jack is an ancestor to many Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam families. His house is historically significant for its age and its story, which includes being the first non-indigenous settlement and for the marriage of Jack to Rowia, a Musqueam Nation woman who was the grandaughter of "Old Chief" Kiapilano. Jack and Rowia raised four children here; Sampson, Christine, Mary and Emma. Christine married Chief Henry Jack of Squamish Nation: their daughter Amy, grand-daughter to Jack, married Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the renowned community leader, actor and writer. See below for more on the story of Navvy Jack Thomas.


Other residents of 1768 Argyle

In 1907 another pioneer, John Lawson, bought the house and he lived here until 1928. He planted a holly tree next to the house and named his home “Hollyburn”. (Holly for the tree, burn for the creek.) He added a small peaked dormer on the front and two brick chimneys. He is remembered at adjacent John Lawson Park. In 1921 the house was moved slightly on the site to make way for Argyle Avenue.

The property was also owned by Emma Macfarlane and then by the Hookham family. Leonard Hookham was a cabinetmaker and they lived in this house for 43 years. The Hookhams sold the property to Lloyd Williams in 1971. The District bought the house in 1990 with life tenancy to the Williams’s. Lloyd passed away in 2017.

The house has been home to families for 143 years, and over that time it has undergone numerous renovations and some neglect. There is not much of the original house left—much of this building’s history is one of change.

The District is consulting the community of the future of this building. If restored, the project would recreate the 1909 version of the house, including the brick chimneys added by John Lawson.


The concept

The proposal for a nature centre was first submitted by West Vancouver’s community stewardship groups. They envisioned a centrally-located nature centre that would profile and highlight the natural riches of our community. Displays and information, supported by stewardship groups, would inspire visitors to take information away and explore the myriad of natural wonders in our community, including forests, parkland, shorelines, wetlands, streams and local wildlife.

Council approved the submission in 2014, subject to a sustainable business plan.


What is a nature centre?

It is a public space for programs and services that support education and promotion of the natural environment and our cultural heritage.

A West Vancouver nature centre would offer environmental and heritage programs and education. Programs and events will take place both inside the building and outside in the nearby park. The space would host:

  • indoor and outdoor environmentally-themed programs and events for children, youth, families
  • educational activities supporting the efforts of community environmental stewardship groups
  • heritage programs, activities and events
  • private functions, as a facility available to rent

Operating model

An advisory committee that includes representation from local stewardship groups, Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations and other community stakeholders would help develop the nature centre’s programming. The annual operating cost is projected to be $110,000, and takes into account operating costs and revenue projections from programming and rentals.


Funding from Community Amenity Contributions (CACs)

If the community supports this project, funding would come from the District’s Community Amenity Contributions. These are funds that are provided to the District by a developer when Council grants development rights through re-zoning. A nature centre would be a new community amenity and therefore qualifies for this type of funding.

If you support proceeding with a nature centre, three options are presented for your consideration, with costs ranging from $1,300,000 to $2,314,000. The District currently has over $12 million in CACs.


Survey

Now that you've read the explanation of this proposal, please complete the survey below.

Deadline to complete the survey is Monday, September 30 at 4 p.m.


The District has an opportunity to honour a significant heritage asset by giving it new life as a nature centre to support education and awareness of our rich cultural heritage and natural environment. It could be a space to both honour the past and encourage stewardship of our natural assets for future generations.

Community Consultation

The District wants to know:

  • Does the community support the concept of a West Vancouver nature centre?
  • Does the community support locating a nature centre on the waterfront?
  • Does the community support restoring the heritage house known as Navvy Jack House for the nature centre, or building a new facility?
  • Does the community support using Community Amenity Contribution funds to create a nature centre?

Please keep reading for an explanation of this proposal and then take the survey to share your input.


Information Meetings

Learn more about this site and the proposal at an information meeting.

Note: The information meeting for Saturday, September 14 is cancelled due to rain and rescheduled to Saturday, September 21.

  • Tuesday, September 17, 10 a.m.–12 p.m., West Vancouver Memorial Library, lobby area, 1950 Marine Drive
  • Saturday, September 21, 10 a.m.–12 p.m., John Lawson Park
  • Tuesday, September 24, 4–6:30 p.m., West Vancouver Community Centre, Lalji Family Atrium, 2121 Marine Drive

Who was Navvy Jack?

The house at 1768 Argyle Avenue was built by Navvy Jack. Navvy Jack’s real name was John Thomas, and he came from Wales in about 1860. He played a key role in British Columbia's pioneer history and bought the property on the West Vancouver waterfront to build a home for his new bride in approximately 1874. He was known for many "firsts", including operating the first by-request ferry service from Vancouver to Ambleside in 1866. His home was the location of the first post office, church service and wedding ceremony in West Vancouver. He ran a gravel business and a specific mix of sand and gravel is still named after him.

Navvy Jack is an ancestor to many Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam families. His house is historically significant for its age and its story, which includes being the first non-indigenous settlement and for the marriage of Jack to Rowia, a Musqueam Nation woman who was the grandaughter of "Old Chief" Kiapilano. Jack and Rowia raised four children here; Sampson, Christine, Mary and Emma. Christine married Chief Henry Jack of Squamish Nation: their daughter Amy, grand-daughter to Jack, married Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the renowned community leader, actor and writer. See below for more on the story of Navvy Jack Thomas.


Other residents of 1768 Argyle

In 1907 another pioneer, John Lawson, bought the house and he lived here until 1928. He planted a holly tree next to the house and named his home “Hollyburn”. (Holly for the tree, burn for the creek.) He added a small peaked dormer on the front and two brick chimneys. He is remembered at adjacent John Lawson Park. In 1921 the house was moved slightly on the site to make way for Argyle Avenue.

The property was also owned by Emma Macfarlane and then by the Hookham family. Leonard Hookham was a cabinetmaker and they lived in this house for 43 years. The Hookhams sold the property to Lloyd Williams in 1971. The District bought the house in 1990 with life tenancy to the Williams’s. Lloyd passed away in 2017.

The house has been home to families for 143 years, and over that time it has undergone numerous renovations and some neglect. There is not much of the original house left—much of this building’s history is one of change.

The District is consulting the community of the future of this building. If restored, the project would recreate the 1909 version of the house, including the brick chimneys added by John Lawson.


The concept

The proposal for a nature centre was first submitted by West Vancouver’s community stewardship groups. They envisioned a centrally-located nature centre that would profile and highlight the natural riches of our community. Displays and information, supported by stewardship groups, would inspire visitors to take information away and explore the myriad of natural wonders in our community, including forests, parkland, shorelines, wetlands, streams and local wildlife.

Council approved the submission in 2014, subject to a sustainable business plan.


What is a nature centre?

It is a public space for programs and services that support education and promotion of the natural environment and our cultural heritage.

A West Vancouver nature centre would offer environmental and heritage programs and education. Programs and events will take place both inside the building and outside in the nearby park. The space would host:

  • indoor and outdoor environmentally-themed programs and events for children, youth, families
  • educational activities supporting the efforts of community environmental stewardship groups
  • heritage programs, activities and events
  • private functions, as a facility available to rent

Operating model

An advisory committee that includes representation from local stewardship groups, Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh Nations and other community stakeholders would help develop the nature centre’s programming. The annual operating cost is projected to be $110,000, and takes into account operating costs and revenue projections from programming and rentals.


Funding from Community Amenity Contributions (CACs)

If the community supports this project, funding would come from the District’s Community Amenity Contributions. These are funds that are provided to the District by a developer when Council grants development rights through re-zoning. A nature centre would be a new community amenity and therefore qualifies for this type of funding.

If you support proceeding with a nature centre, three options are presented for your consideration, with costs ranging from $1,300,000 to $2,314,000. The District currently has over $12 million in CACs.


Survey

Now that you've read the explanation of this proposal, please complete the survey below.

Deadline to complete the survey is Monday, September 30 at 4 p.m.

We will continue to add new items to the Frequently Asked Questions section throughout this project.

  • West Vancouver Streamkeepers Society proposes a Fish Nature Centre, but isn't there already the Fish Hatchery on the Capilano River?

    20 days ago

    The Streamers proposal is not for a Fish Nature Centre, it is for a creek rehabilitation to improve fish habitat. Small environmental restoration projects such as this one have been ongoing with support from Stewardship groups. The restoration of Lawson Creek to improve fish habitat is expected to cost up to $150,000. This will be funded by the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society.

    The Capilano River Hatchery is a federal government facility designed to strengthen salmon stocks that were affected by the construction of the Cleveland dam. It is also a tourist destination that welcomes 400,000 people annually.

  • Will DWV be selling or leasing the land to Squamish Nation?

    20 days ago

    No. The land is owned by the municipality.

  • The public consultation in March 2019 resulted in only 50% of respondents approved spending money on rebuilding. Why are you still consulting on this?

    20 days ago

    The March consultation was a general poll on 8 potential projects as part of the budget consultation. 173 responses on the proposed nature centre proposal were generally split in half. Council determined that this sample size is not large enough to make a decision, but provided direction to conduct a comprehensive engagement.

  • Please provide more detail on the construction costs. Why does the restoration cost so much?

    27 days ago

    For options 1 and 2, the breakdown of the construction costs for both options are very similar. The cost of option 1 is approximately $85,000 less expensive because it only uses new materials to build a replica, which is less expensive than incorporating original historical building components into a restoration. 

    The breakdown is as follows for option 2:

    Construction Cost

    $1,729,700

    Landscaping

    $ 50,000

    Sub-total:

    $1,779,700

    Contingency 10%

    $177,970

    Consulting/Permits & Fees 20%

    $355,940

    Total:

    $2,313,610


    For Option 3, the total cost of $1,300,000 is based on a new building with a square footage of 1,500 square feet.


  • What is the business case for the estimated operating costs?

    27 days ago

    The operating budget is estimated at:

    • $136,500 for programming staff
    • $24,500 for supplies and maintenance
    • $51,000 for revenue 

    bringing the total estimated net operating cost to $110,000. 

  • Will the stream restoration project and its “engineered loop” divert water and damage John Lawson Creek?

    about 2 months ago
    The restoration project will enhance the creek and its habitat, not damage it. At this location, Lawson Creek runs through a concrete flume. The plan is to create a gated opening in the existing concrete wall. The height of the opening will be set to allow a constant flow of water to be diverted to flow through the new natural creek path before reconnecting to the existing channel. 

    Water levels in the new creek path will be constantly regulated by the gated opening. In periods of high flow, excess water will continue through the concrete flume, allowing a stable environment for habitat in the new natural creek path. This proposed plan was designed and is approved by, Fisheries and Oceans Canada.


  • What kind of environmental displays or activities would take place at the nature centre?

    about 2 months ago

    While the final details will be developed together with an advisory committee, the stewardship groups who developed and brought forward the concept envision a nature centre that highlights all the natural attributes in our community. Displays would feature:

    • old-growth forested areas
    • Lighthouse Park
    • hiking trails in the Upper Lands
    • the abundance of creeks in West Vancouver and the aquatic life that calls these wetlands home
    • shoreline preservation initiatives

    The site is in a central, well-travelled location and this would raise awareness of the many natural features in our community. It would be a place where people can learn, take away information and go explore the natural wonders in our community.


  • If a completely new building is constructed, will there be heritage displays or will the heritage be completely lost?

    about 2 months ago

    It is intended that the nature centre, whether housed in a heritage building or a new building, would offer programs on both the natural environment and cultural heritage. If the building is not restored, the significance of the site could be commemorated with a dedication plaque.

  • Have any other sites been considered for a nature centre?

    about 2 months ago

    At this point in time, the proposal is only for a nature centre on the waterfront, at this location. Depending on what the community's feedback on the proposal is, Council may, if they choose, direct staff to investigate other potential locations for a nature centre.

  • What benefits do nature centres provide?

    about 2 months ago

    Nature centres offer a variety of social benefits to the community. They offer interactive ways for people to connect with nature and heritage; they provide public space for meetings and workshops, they support programming needs, foster partnerships and enhance community engagement. They are also an opportunity to promote volunteerism in parks and stewardship programs, building community connections and civic pride.

  • Who is going to run the nature centre? What's the role of the advisory committee?

    about 2 months ago

    Navvy Jack Nature Centre will be managed by the District, specifically the Parks, Culture & Community Services Division. Working together with the community is integral with all the Parks, Culture & Community Services Division’s services. 

    A community advisory committee comprised of stakeholders such as the West Vancouver Nature House Society and the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations will act as a liaison with staff. The West Vancouver Historical Society will play an integral role in the restoration/re-creation of the Navvy Jack Nature House. We also envision that District staff will work closely with West Vancouver Schools to augment community programs with school programs when possible.

  • You haven't provided any costs for the stream restoration part of the proposal. How much will that cost?

    about 2 months ago

    The restoration of Lawson Creek to improve fish habitat is expected to cost up to $150,000. This will be funded by the West Vancouver Streamkeeper Society.

  • How does the proposal fit with the Official Community Plan?

    about 2 months ago

    The Navvy Jack Nature Centre proposal meets the following objectives of the Official Community Plan:

    Managing our Urban Environment

    • 2.6.3 Facilitate on-site and off-site environmental enhancement on both public and private lands as opportunities arise e.g. creek daylighting, fish habitat restoration, invasive species management

    • 2.6.6 Continue to work with senior governments, neighbouring municipalities, First Nations, local businesses and landowners, stewardship groups and other community partners in the delivery of environmental stewardship and education initiatives

    Managing our valuable parks system

    • 2.7.6 Support compatible activities in District parks and open spaces to advance environmental stewardship goals e.g. volunteer stewardship activities, invasive plant management, environmental art

    Enhancing parks & public spaces

    • 2.8.16 Work with local schools and community groups to coordinate the use of public space and facilities

    Promoting an engaged community

    • 2.8.17 Engage the community in planning for services, programs and facilities, and municipal decision-making

    • 2.8.18 Provide meaningful volunteer engagement opportunities to support civic programs and services

  • What consultation has taken place so far?

    about 2 months ago

    In early 2011, during community consultation for the Parks Master Plan, stewardship groups expressed an interest in working collaboratively with the District to create a nature centre to increase awareness in the community of the many environmental activities taking place though stewardship efforts.

    The idea of creating a West Vancouver Nature Centre gained further momentum during the Ambleside Activation community consultation in 2012.

    As part of the community consultation on the 2019 Budget, the community was asked to indicate a level of support for using Community Amenity Contribution funds for the project.