The Sounds of Growth in Coquitlam


20131103_123426-1I am becoming accustomed to my 7am wake-up of pile-driving, six days a week, from my 32nd floor perch overlooking the city of Coquitlam in British Columbia, Canada. My bedroom faces west and onto Coquitlam Center mall, City Hall, the Police Station. I have a bird’s eye view of the new high-rises coming up along Glen Drive and Pinetree Way. The view is of interest, but the sound was not anticipated.  Knowing that I have at least another year to contend with the noise, it weighs on my heart and head. I’ve only been back in the country for a couple years after island-life in The Bahamas.  My eldest daughter chose Coquitlam when she moved back to attend Douglas College and is now a student at Simon Fraser University.  Two of my other children have now attended the local high school, Gleneagle Secondary.

We used to live in North Vancouver on the water up Indian Arm before heading off to the sunny Bahamas, and so Coquitlam would not have been my place of choice to return to, had it not been for my children moving here first.

I am now comfortable with that decision, and quite happy here. As a single mother, I find the city safe and with a convenient layout. It surprised me with its plethora of services within walking distance, the stunning views of the mountains, and the proud mix of nature and city.

But, back to that noise!  I had not anticipated the downside of living up in the clouds, and was surprised to discover that noise is magnified as it carries upward. Traffic is megaphoned, and even harsher when you add rain and wet streets.  It's okay in winter when the cold forces the windows closed,  but to get that fresh summer air, the uninvited noise is part and parcel with the breeze and the spectacular scenery, sunrises and sunsets.  It took me awhile to learn to sleep with these sounds.

I have two apartments for my extended family in this building on the same floor; one that faces west and the other east. The views are like night and day, as well as the noise volumes.  It’s been hard dealing with the sounds of the police cars, ambulances and fire engine sirens, but the early morning construction sounds that do not stop until well after 5pm are wearing on me, and thoughts of moving keep teasing.

Our east facing apartment is quieter with views onto the park by Gleneagle Elementary, which makes a great neighbor. The west facing apartment is above Pinetree which is a busy street for traffic,  ‘beeping’ cross walks,  and the construction boom.  As you can see in this photo, there are presently four cranes in a relatively small area. There are still at least 4 empty lots that have not even begun the groundwork for construction. I've heard that the City has put a webcam on top of our building to capture the rapid changes of this city.

I wonder about those that may have to work night shifts and sleep days. Earplugs would most definitely be a must.  And what about the businesses that are also within a block or two (or adjacent to) the pile drivers and hammers?  I am sure it is grating on the nerves of hundreds of us. We are all paying collectively, in one way or another. I am grateful I can escape to apartment east when the noise of the day gets too much on the west side.

Then there is the slap of irony that life can offer… When I allowed my daughter to have her friends over for her 16th birthday, we received a noise complaint from her music at 10pm, and along with that a substantial fine from our apartment management. The ironic bit is, that our building had workers doing resurfacing on its exterior, so we'd been suffering with jack-hammering daily for over 2 months. Imagine the sound of someone hammering right over your head all day. Yet celebratory music along with teenagers singing at the party was a no-no.

Somehow we cope, and I am sure it will all be worthwhile once the new apartments are up, and buzzing with life. We are already benefiting from new restaurants and services within walking distance. They have also started some preliminary work on the approved new Evergreen Skytrain station which will connect us into downtown Vancouver. That will most certainly bring another whole set of sounds during and after construction.

So here I am, adapting. I've moved from sea-level into the clouds - from walk up, to elevator up.  I’ve given up the sounds of the quiet lapping of waves on the shore, and potcakes barking on my street, to pile-driving, jack-hammering, sirens, honking, and trains in the distance...

Such is city life, and the price of growth in Coquitlam!