You might not notice the island, even though it’s in plain sight.
But once you do, it beckons you, whether it’s your first time or your 10th. There’s a path across False Creek that leads you to it, and you can’t help but feel a thrill of discovery. The trees, shrubs, water and dead ends make you feel a sense of privacy, even with condo towers all around. It’s like being in a treetop clubhouse in Vancouver’s urban backyard.
Once when I visited, a man in a latex horse mask sprang from the shrubs to scare me. On another evening, a quartet of three guitars and a ukulele sang “Folsom Prison Blues” on the island’s rocky edge. As the sun set, a man in tweed with a tie and his sweetheart in a dress clinked wine glasses. They sat on a picnic blanket in the grass, and brought a basket with a board of charcuterie and cheese.
This is Habitat Island. It’s a small thing off Olympic Village, though more of a miniature peninsula than an island. (Then again, Granville Island isn’t an island either, nor is False Creek a creek, so let’s just call it an island for this story.)
The island has joined the ranks of other mythic Vancouver landmarks, such as Dude Chilling Park or the East Van Cross. You might know it better as Beer Island, as the island’s become a favourite secluded spot to enjoy a cold one in the urban outdoors.
Eric Ly, 29, lives near the island and likes to drink Pabst Blue Ribbon there; he calls himself a “cheap hipster” for it. Ly moved from Ottawa, home to a patio beer culture. No Beer Islands there.
“It feels like one of those last undiscovered spots tucked away in the middle of the city,” said Ly. Sometimes, he’ll even visit for a “super, ultra-rare date with a lady friend.”
The island feels organic, from how it looks to how its fame spread by word of mouth and Internet circles. But the island is a new addition to the water, only eight years old. It’s also human-made, which raises the question, how do you make a new island that feels organic and welcoming?
“We just put the bones in. Really strong bones,” said one of its creators. The rest is up to the public.
Read the full story in the Vancouver Courier here.