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Dunbar-Southlands is a sprawling neighbourhood in the southwest corner of Vancouver, far larger than the small commercial hub along Dunbar Street between King Edward and 30th Avenues would suggest. Primarily an area of older single-family homes – many of which have been demolished and renovated in recent years – it is also one of the most stable. The neighbourhood’s population has in recent years hovered around 21,000.
Stretching from West 16th south to the Fraser River, bounded by the Camosun Bog and University Endowment Lands to the west and MacKenzie Street in the east, the neighbourhood includes the present-day settlement of the Musqueam First Nation – the area’s original settlers. Resident in the area for 10,000 years, the Musqueam first settled here 4,000 years ago.
White settlers began arriving in 1863 and the fertile riverfront on the neighbourhood’s south side supported a variety of farms. Southlands has the distinction of claiming the only agricultural land in Vancouver, and is home to several riding stables. Subdivision and development of the area began in earnest in 1912 under the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), and horses gave way to streetcars. Commercial clusters sprouted along Dunbar, as well as West 41st, one of several east-west arterials that take residents east into the city. With the UBC campus right next door, however, the neighbourhood is one popular with families and students (a quarter of the population is 19 years and under) yet maintains a genteel charm thanks to an older population (seniors account for 15% of residents).
With its position on the western fringe of Vancouver, Dunbar is closer to the wild than many people suspect. Dunbar Community Centre at West Memorial Park provides a host of facilities, but residents are just as likely to be found walking, jogging or cycling through Camosun Bog and Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Horse riding or walking along the Fraser River Trail in the Southlands are also favourite outings, where songbirds, eagles and other wildlife may be seen.
Several municipal parks also host impromptu (as well as organized) games of soccer and other field sports, including Balaclava Park, Camosun Park, and Chaldecott Park. Musqueam Park is a 22-acre preserve that also serves as an off-leash area for dogs. Golfers can also enjoy the McCleery Golf Course, while Point Grey Golf and Country Club as well as the Musqueam operate greens.
Vancouver Public Library has a branch here that allows residents to check out material or log on to its wealth of electronic resources, while Stong’s Market – the neighbourhood’s venerable local grocer – takes online orders and offers delivery with purchases of $50 or more.
Dunbar Street may be the neighbourhood’s namesake arterial, but the neighbourhood’s location at the western edge of Vancouver makes the east-west avenues of West 16th, King Edward, West 41st and Southwest Marine Drive the primary routes to Vancouver’s other neighbourhoods. While the 32 bus offers express service to and from downtown at peak hours, the 25, 41 and 49 buses offer regular east-west service on all but Southwest Marine Drive. The routes terminate at SkyTrain and Canada rapid transit line stations, and also connect the area to UBC, connecting the neighbourhood with key destinations.
Cycling routes also cross the area, with key routes including Southwest Marine Drive, Balaclava, and routes along West 29th and West 37th avenues.
Dunbar is served by Lord Byng Secondary School, which receives students from area elementary schools, including Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary, Lord Kitchener, and a French-language school, Jules Quesnel. Immaculate Conception School is a Catholic school for elementary students. St. George and Crofton House are two private schools that rank among the city’s best, and provide alternatives to the public system. In addition, a number of private pre-schools as well as Ivy Montessori take care of the area’s youngest scholars.
Dunbar Residents’ Association has been a driving force behind the fairs that bring the community together each summer and winter. The association launched Salmonberry Days, a month-long festival each May that showcases local gardens. It culminates in the Salmonberry Days Community Fair at West Memorial Park. One of the city’s most popular holiday fairs is the Dunbar Holiday Craft Fair, where jewellery, woodworking and other gifts can be found. The significant number of older homes also makes the area a regular stop on the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s annual heritage house tour. Southlands frequently hosts farm markets and a range of seasonal events.