Experiencing more of New Denver, from Nikkei history to a dog beach

In the afternoon of Day 20 and morning of Day 21 of the trip – Tuesday, May 15th and Wednesday, May 16th – Cathy and I continued to explore New Denver with one of my sisters and her husband, from our base at the beautiful Centennial Park campground on the shore of Slocan Lake.

Our first stop wen we returned from Sandon was the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre (NIMC). In 1942, 20,881 Nikkei (people of Japanese descent) who lived within 100 miles of the British Columbia coast, 75% of whom were Canadian citizens, were stripped of their civil rights, labelled “enemy aliens”, and forced to move from their homes to communities and camps in the BC interior. New Denver and Sandon were two of those communities.

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre at New Denver, BC

This appalling part of Canada’s history isn’t nearly as well known as I think it should be. Although it was a BC issue in some ways, it was Canada that made the internments and property seizures legal. It’s a good example of just how fragile democracy is.

Our visit began with a 10-minute introduction to what happened, by the centre’s interpreter. The grandparents of a boy I was friends with all the way through grade school had their fishboats seized and they were sent to one of these camps, so this story is one I’ve always known the basics of. There are a fair number of books about various aspects of the story in print now.

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre at New Denver, BC
This was the men’s ward at Hastings Park, the assembly location for the moves and the property seizures. When you see photos like this, it’s hard to imagine that these were Canadians, and many of them were professionals and business people.

The men's ward for Nikkei internments at Hastings Park, BC
New Denver had a population of about 350 in early 1942, and 1,505 Nikkei were sent here. Some of the men among the first Japanese-Canadian arrivals were paid to build 275 shacks for the new residents in an area called “The Orchard”.

New Denver, BC
Many of New Denver’s new residents experienced their first real winter while living in tents while shacks were being built.

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre at New Denver, BC
Moving from tents to shacks didn’t improve comfort a great deal – the shacks had no insulation initially, and amenities were very basic.

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre at New Denver, BC
As visitors go through the various buildings on the centre’s property, the Japanese garden winding around them is a peaceful and beautiful constant as you come out from the disturbing images in each building.

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre at New Denver, BC
A few outhouses were the sanitary facilities for the large Nikkei population.

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre at New Denver, BC
Despite their treatment and accommodations, the Nikkei in general worked hard to form “normal” communities, with many of the events that they would have had in their former homes. I bought a copy of “Karizumai: A Guide to Japanese Canadian Internment Sites” – I’m not nearly finished with this story.

The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre at New Denver, BC
After that visit, with the temperature up around 28°C, we were all due for some play at the leash-free dog beach adjacent to the marina, which is adjacent to Centennial Park. A thinned forest goes almost to the water’s edge, so those who wanted shade could have it, while the fur-kids and I played in the sun and water 🙂

Dog-friendly beach at New Denver, BC
It takes some encouragement to get Bella swimming, but then she gets really funny. Sticks are always the winning toy.

Our dog Bella playing at the dog-friendly beach at New Denver, BC
Somebody got creative with some driftwood.

New Denver, BC
This was the only boat we saw on the lake, and we had the beach to ourselves. I would have expected both the lake and the beach to be busy on a day like this.

New Denver, BC
Due to a puppyhood trauma apparently, Nicky doesn’t like deep water, but I eventually got her in for sticks, too 🙂

New Denver, BC
The creek at the north end of the beach was roaring, and pouring huge amounts of sediment into the lake, but the lake water just a couple of hundred meters away was wonderfully clear. We could even hear large boulders tumbling down the creek.

New Denver, BC
It was as perfect an afternoon as we could have hoped for. I even took my kayak out for a bit.

Slocan Lake, at New Denver, BC
After dinner, a crew of about 8 volunteers showed up to re-surface the bocce ball courts in front of our campsites. In short order, it looked like new, and the next morning, a class of children was there being instructed in how to play the game.

New Denver, BC
Our final place to visit on Tuesday evening, as the sun was going down behind the high peaks, was the Kohan Reflection Garden (“Kohan” means “by the water”). On the lakeshore adjacent to the south of Centennial Park, it “was created to honour the Japanese Canadians interred here during the Second World War.”

Kohan Reflection Garden in New Denver, BC
Kohan Garden contains many features of a Japanese garden including a tea house, and several flowering cherry trees planted by the Funjinkai, a women’s organization.

Kohan Reflection Garden in New Denver, BC
The boat launch, with the peaks to the south in the last light of the day. The boat launch is beside the lakeside camping sites, which don’t have power or water.

Boat launch at Centennial Park in New Denver, BC
Warren and I had split dinner duties – he barbecued chicken for our firt dinner together, and I barbecued home-made burger patties the second night. Warren handled our final breakfast. Cooking is easier, and everything tastes better, when it’s done outside, especially in a location like this 🙂

Cooking breakfast beside the RV at Centennial Park in New Denver, BC
Located beside us was a large tent-camping area. We were very impressed by quality of maintenance of everything in New Denver. With a population of only about 500, the town seems to have lots of money. Judging by the number of homes, there must be a sizeable seasonal community paying taxes.

The large tent-camping area in Centennial Park, New Denver, BC
Cathy and I didn’t want to leave New Denver yet, but had non-refundable reservation at Nakusp Hot Springs. Before heading north, we all drove over to downtown New Denver for a look around. The “business centre” is small and has a good feel to it, with some unique shops in the old buildings.

Downtown New Denver, BC
Tracy can never walk by a fabric shop, and “Sew Much More” had some beautiful material to entice her as well as lots of yarn in the other room.

Sew Much More shop in New Denver, BC
I love communities that value their heritage. In some cases it’s just that there isn’t enough money to bulldoze and build anew, but I’m pretty sure that New Denver knows what attracts people.

Drug store in a heritage building in New Denver, BC
There are several vacant buildings downtown, and the commercial block that’s for sale for $250,000 looked like a good deal, as the building on 4 commercial lots even has a rental apartment suite.

Downtown New Denver, BC
What a wonderful place to play chess on a warm day like this.

Outdoor chess set in downtown New Denver, BC
That’s my kind of wind vane 🙂

New Denver, BC

At about 11:30, we returned to the campground, finished packing up, said our “good-byes” and headed north towards Nakusp Hot Springs.


Experiencing more of New Denver, from Nikkei history to a dog beach — 3 Comments

  1. Was much interested to read that bit about the internment camp…when I was just about 12+, we visited a very forlorn out of the way internment camp in the area on the east side of the Sierras in CA, on our way home to the LA area from visiting Yosemite NP. My father wanted to temper my fascination with WWII planes, guns, tanks, ships, etc with some of the unpleasant realities of war in the US. Boy did he ever…it was GRIM!

    I knew from camping in the Owens Valley that it was brutally hot in the summer, ugly cold and snowy in the winter, windy and just a miserable place to be, after being yanked unceremoniously from their homes after Pear Harbor.

    Murray – Thank you for your seemingly endless curiosity about the world at large during your travels!