It was a beautiful sunny Sunday this weekend, so we took the dogs for a walk in Cottonwood Island park alongside the Nechako River. The ice was breaking up, and it occurred to me that I’d never seen the river at this time of year. That’s because even though the two rivers in Prince George are the primary physical characteristic of the city I’ve called home for most of my life, it’s only recently that I’ve spent much time exploring them.
When we lived in Victoria, we were in a neighbourhood bordered by Beacon Hill Park and Dallas Road. These were the main walking areas in the area, and I felt like visiting them gave me a good feel for the city. The ocean is what has historically shaped Victoria, and to a certain extent it’s the heart of the city. In Wuhan, it was the Yangtze River and East Lake, and in most other cities I’ve visited it’s been some body of water or other. Around the world, dependence on water shapes modes of settlement.
In Prince George, it’s the meeting of the Fraser and Nechako that shapes our history. The First Nations of the Prince George region are even called Lheidli T’enneh, “People of the confluence of the two rivers.” But even though we have plenty of companies with “two rivers” in their name, I don’t think the rivers play much of a role in the daily lives of most people living here.
After our experience living in Victoria, I started looking at neighbourhoods in Prince George in different ways. I had always assumed life in Prince George would be fairly consistent– newer houses, suburban neighbourhoods. But I realized that there are areas that feel more like ‘Prince George’ rather than generic suburbs. When people visit Vancouver and Victoria, they don’t go the suburbs. They go to the neighbourhoods and parks around the ocean– Beacon Hill, English Bay, Stanley Park. Those are the places that give you a sense of where you are. In Prince George, it’s the rivers.
Since moving back, we’ve been visiting rivers more often, and in all seasons. It’s like discovering an aspect of the city that’s incredibly central, but I’d never been familiar with. I’d recommend visiting the dominant physical characteristic of your own city from time to time. It gives you a better sense of where you are.
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