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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

I wonder how you play this game?

It has been a really active day here on the Island! We woke up to the fisherman working right in front of Newman, I had a workout for 1.5 hours and then we headed up to Cumberland for a hike. We’re both worn out, but only one of us took a nap!

The new floating dock that the fisherman constructed. In the background is the small tug boat, (on the right), who handed off the log boom to the bigger tug boat (on the top left). All this is going on right from Newman’s front window! It’s very interesting to be experiencing the fishing industry in B.C., first hand from our site at Lighthouse RV Park.

When we came back this afternoon after our hike, the floating dock now looks like this:

Guardrails have been added to the floating dock, and it is now rainy and grey at 4C.

Richard thought we should call the Fanny Bay Oysters Seafood Shop to inquire about reserving some Dungeness crab for dinner this evening. Richard called and found out that the fresh crab harvest was arriving later today or tomorrow, so if we wanted nice big, fresh crabs, we should wait until tomorrow to stop by and pick them up. A Sunday afternoon crab feast is now our plan!

We thought we would head up to Cumberland today to hike around the Coal Creek Historic Park Chinatown Historic Site. We knew we had to get out before the rain came later this afternoon.

On our way up to Cumberland we saw this very funky display of birdhouses at the end of someone’s driveway. I love the freedom of artistic expression that comes with the charm of living on the Island. Anything goes, but it seems to work here somehow.

Bird houses decorating a stump with oyster shells at the base of the stump. How “islandish” is that?!!

As we headed through Cumberland we saw that the Cumberland Bakery had a huge lineup to get inside. We hoped that the bakery wouldn’t sell out before we could get there later after our hike!

We saw that the very small parking lot for the Chinatown Historic Site was full, so we parked on the road, and walked down to the park.

We were greeted with this map of the Cumberland Chinatown which existed for 80 years, before the buildings were all demolished.

The area that now exists as the Coal Creek Historic Park has two posts as you enter with Chinese writing on them.

We headed down what we thought was the trail around the Cumberland Chinatown, and instead we ended up at the Cumberland Community Forest. After reading that the Cumberland Chinatown was only 1km long, we thought we may as well hike the Cumberland Community Forest to get some steps in. The Cumberland Community Forest Society has been purchasing lands that are unprotected,to keep them from being logged. So far the Society has purchased 500 acres, with the most recent purchase occurring on September 1, 2020. The forest is connected to the. Coal Creek Heritage Park and together these parcels are forming a contiguous corridor of protected natural areas. The forest is home to Red Legged frogs, Roosevelt elk and Small Eared Bats. We heard a very weird cry today coming from the forest, but were unable to see what was making the noise!

Cooking implements leftover from the Cumberland Chinatown that we saw in the Cumberland Community Forest.

The hike was INTENSE in the forest!

Tree roots across the trail in the Cumberland Community Forest.

The trail kept going up and up and up! I felt like I was playing Georgetown Golf Club #8 hole, over and over again walking up from #7 to #8. It was very strenuous!

We finally decided to turnaround once we reached a lookout point down to a rushing waterfalls.

We hadn’t realized how high up we were until I had to lean against a tree to take these photos, shooting down into the canyon. Richard’s iPhone told us we had done 15 stories and hiked over 4.2 km, while in the Community Forest. Needless to say my legs are now very tired!

I was glad to get back down to the bottom of the Community forest so we could get back to learning more a about the Cumberland Chinatown.

Fire hydrant remaining in the middle of the swampy remains of Cumberland Chinatown.

Ice crystals on the swampy water of what had been Cumberland Chinatown.

We wondered how exactly this whole area known as the Cumberland Chinatown had come into existence. After reading all of the plaques we started to understand the history.

In 1888 the Union Collery Company set aside the swampy area to the southwest of Cumberland for its Chinese labourers, who soon drained the swamp to construct homes and businesses to sustain their culture. Labourers were brought in by the Dunsmuir family from Guangdong Province in China to build the Wellington Colliery Railway whose purpose was to transport coal from Cumberland to Union Bay. A head tax was introduced on all immigrants from China in the amount of $50 and legislation introduced in 1903 increased the head tax to a maximum of $500.00 per person, which was the equivalent of 3-4 years of wages for Chinese miners. Unlike the No. 1 Japan Town where they were allowed to bring their families with them to settle in Canada, the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act separated families so most of the men who had come to Canada to earn a living and send their wages back to China, remained separated from their families, and the Cumberland Chinatown was mostly a bachelor community. Family reunification began in 1949.

In the early 20th century the two main streets of Cumberland Chinatown, Shan Gai and Hai Gai, bustled with activity. The smell of lye drifted from the Tan Lee Laundry, mixing with the earthy smell of the swamp, while grocers peddled fruits and vegetables. There were also hardware stores, barbers apothecaries, theatres, parlours, fraternities and temples. Chinatown was an integral part of the Comox Valley and the larger business community of British Columbia.

Cumberland Chinatown.

Cumberland Chinatown was largely self sufficient. Pigs and poultry were raised in backyards or on small farms. Tofu, made locally and roasted meats were a treat for Chinatown residents. Pickled fish, sour cucumber, and rice were imported supplementing the vegetable gardens grown on small plots, while larger market gardens provided fresh produce for Chinatown and beyond. Chinatowns restaurants were a social gathering place for those within and from outside the community.

By the end of WWII, the population of Cumberland Chinatown was nearly 3,000 residents. Over the course of the town’s existence an estimated 175 Chinese miners died in coal mining disasters or suffered losses from flood and fires, including one in 1943 that destroyed 43 buildings. Chinese miners earned half as much as European miners. A sign at Coal Creek says white workers at #3 mine that operated from 1888-1893 earned $2.50-$4 a day, while Chinese workers earned $1 to $1.25.

The Depression marked the end of mining jobs for Chinese workers. The population continued to decline into the 1960‘s. Former residents and descendants have reunited each year in Vancouver since 1972 for a reunion.

The government of British Columbia issued a formal apology to Chinese Canadians on May 15, 2014 for the historical wrongs of past provincial governments. The racist discrimination was unacceptable and the formal apology closed a dark period of B.C,’s history.

Cumberland Chinatown Picnic Pavilion built to commemorate and honour the former residents who lived and worked in this once thriving community of Cumberland Chinatown 1888-1968. The dedication on the pavilion is “Wishing you peace and safety in all four seasons”. (Si Quay Ping On).

The land that had been Cumberland Chinatown has now returned to being a swamp.

All that remains of Cumberland Chinatown are a few trails.

As we kept walking past the Cumberland Chinatown grounds, we came across a very interesting sign.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!

Coal Creek Disc Golf! An 18 hole disc golf course exists on some of the former land from the Cumberland Chinatown!

1st disc golf tee

Metal disc golf “hole” in the forest.

We saw a couple of guys playing and finishing up their round and a family with a father and two boys coming to play. We asked them to show us their discs and we found out where we could purchase some, if we were interested in playing sometime. Disc golf looks like a blast and something we may do down the road!

We finished up at the Coal Creek Historic Park and headed into Cumberland for some lunch. We were starving! We parked right in front of the Cumberland Bakery and luckily for us, the lineup was very short!

Patiently waiting to see what was left inside our favourite bakery. Today we didn’t spend as much money at the bakery but we did buy 6 shortbread cookies, a raspberry jelly donut, 2 scones, and 2 almond croissant. Mmmm. That is why we we can visit the bakery!

We finally got some lunch at the Wandering Moose Cafe on the Main Street in Cumberland. The cafe is in the old Post Office building.

We both had a Wicked Chicken Thai soup, with a homemade toasted cheese tea biscuit with butter. OMG. The tea biscuit was so cheesy and fresh we were in heaven with the taste of our lunch. The soup was perfect too. Nice and hot and tasty to warm us up from our hike.

After leaving Cumberland, we headed into Courtenay briefly to visit Canadian Tire. We needed a new gas cap for Jerry as we have the “gas cap” warning light on the dash. We also needed to get our tools ready for the Dungeness crab feast tomorrow!

Tools for our crab meal tomorrow. We even watched a You Tube video on how to get the crab meat out of the shells. Richard will definitely be doing the crab meat outside on the picnic table tomorrow! We can’t have Newman smelling like crab for days on end!

And now we are going to watch the Buffalo Bills try to advance in the NFL playoffs! GO Bills Go!

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