The District is creating a plan to improve Klee Wyck Park for community use. From April 8 to May 2, 2022, we collected your input on potential improvements and to hear your ideas. The results of the community engagement will be presented to Council for further direction.
Background on Klee Wyck
Klee Wyck is the name of the park located at 200 Keith Road. The house on the property was built in 1925, before the Lions Gate Bridge was constructed. From 1942 until 1972, it was home to Dr. Ethlyn Trapp, a significant Canadian who was prominent as a physician, a humanitarian, a pioneer in cancer research, and a patron and friend of the arts. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 1968.
In 1960, Dr. Trapp bequeathed the property to the District of West Vancouver with the provision that she retain tenancy for life. The agreement between Dr. Trapp and the District indicates that the property was a gift to be used as a park. The agreement provided by Dr. Trapp specified the uses of the property were to be for pleasure, recreation, nursery garden, playground, or other community use.
“...The Corporation hereby accepts the lands and premises on the terms and conditions herein set forth and contained and covenants and agrees at all times after the death of the owner to develop, keep, maintain and use the said lands for any one or more of park, nursery garden, playground or other purposes of public recreation and for no other purpose whatever…”
Dr. Trapp signed the agreement on February 27, 1960, and the District subsequently passed a bylaw to authorize acceptance and acquiring of the lands for park purposes.
The name "Klee Wyck"
Artist Emily Carr was a friend of Dr. Trapp. The name Klee Wyck was a nickname given to Carr by one of the Indigenous communities she befriended at Ucluelet and the name of a memoir written by the artist. It means "laughing one." Dr. Trapp named the property Klee Wyck in honour of her friend and specified that the District would continue to use the name for the property as part of her gift.
Klee Wyck Park
The property is 6.2 acres and borders the Capilano River, with access to the Capilano Pacific Trail. The site has a house, studio and groundskeeper cottage, but is distinguished by its mature, attractive landscaping that dates from the 1920s and 1940s.
The District of West Vancouver has used the park as a plant nursery for the Parks Department, and, from the 1980s to 2011 the house served as a satellite facility for arts and culture programming. At that point, the house had become uninhabitable, and programming was moved elsewhere.
In 2008, the property was listed on the Community Heritage Register, a list of properties and resources recognized as having heritage value. Having a property listed on the register does not prevent a property owner from altering their property, as long as the alterations follow existing laws, such as the BC Building Code, Zoning Bylaw, etc.
The heritage significance of the property is more than just the craftsman style house. The house's association with Dr. Ethlyn Trapp, the rustic estate setting, the mature landscape, proximity to Capilano River, and the landscape design that includes many unusual introduced plant specimens all factor into the property’s heritage significance.
Asset Management Program
Before 2015, Councils of the day allocated funding to the best of their ability on a priority basis. In 2015, the District set up a systematic program for asset management.
When the asset management program was set up in 2015, one of the things done was to compile a complete list of all the District's assets and then rate them as to use and condition. The analysis of the assets and their condition identified a significant shortfall in what the District had been investing in asset maintenance over the years, resulting in many assets being in poor condition. The house at Klee Wyck falls into this category.
The history of what was done regarding Klee Wyck is in Appendix A of the attached report.
Considering options for Klee Wyck
In 2018, staff conducted a building condition assessment of the house. The assessment indicated the buildings in Klee Wyck Park are beyond useful life. Costs to restore the house at that point would be substantial: a cost estimate of $490,000 to repair just the house did not include hazardous materials removal, heritage restoration, or the cost of updating the building code requirements from a residence to a public assembly building. A pre-demolition hazardous materials survey was subsequently carried out, and the buildings were determined to contain asbestos throughout. A structural condition assessment conducted in October 2020 observed damaged framing and mould throughout.
Staff proposed preparing a report to Council to consider removing the house and studio and the four poor-condition greenhouses, and options for improving the property for use as a park, as outlined in the agreement with Dr. Ethlyn Trapp.
In 2018, Council adopted the Arts & Culture Strategy and directed an Arts Facility Plan to be developed that included a specific plan for the use of the Klee Wyck property. That work was delegated to the Arts Facilities Advisory Committee/Klee Wyck Subcommittee.
A member of Dr. Trapp's family was invited to attend all meetings of the Klee Wyck Subcommittee. That family member attended the meetings and provided comments along the way. They also attended some of the Arts Facilities Advisory Committee meetings to get clarity on the committee’s process.
December 7 Council meeting
On December 7, Council endorsed a report including the Klee Wyck Subcommittee's recommendations and the recommendations of staff to remove the four poor-condition greenhouses, the house, and studio, and improve the park. The Arts Facilities Advisory Committee studied the potential future use of the site for arts and culture programming and found it a poor location for such programming. The report proposes both a short-term plan and a long-term plan for the improvement of Klee Wyck Park.
Proposed park improvements include:
- removing the main house and studio
- removing four greenhouses currently on site
- relocating two greenhouses currently on the site
- after the buildings are removed, landscaping the area to improve the site for park use
- installing interpretive signage to commemorate Dr. Ethlyn Trapp
- creating pathways through the gardens featuring the historical plantings
- review the trail network in the area and connections to Klee Wyck
- consultation with the community to determine the level of interest for community gardens
Community concerns raised
While the future use of Klee Wyck was being considered by staff and the Klee Wyck Subcommittee, concerns about the property's future have been raised by Dr. Trapp's family and by community members.
Is the District going to sell the property?
Answer: No. The District does not plan to sell the property. The District plans to improve the park.
Has the family of Dr. Ethlyn Trapp been consulted?
Answer: Yes. A member of the family was invited to attend all meetings of the Klee Wyck Subcommittee. That family member attended the meetings and provided comments along the way. They also attended some of the Arts Facilities Advisory Committee meetings to get clarity on the committee’s process. Members of Council (Mayor Booth) and District senior staff (CAO, Director of Parks, Culture & Community Services, Senior Manager of Cultural Services) also had several telephone and in-person meetings with them.
Is the property going to be developed with housing?
Answer: No. The property is a park, and the District plans to improve the park for recreational use.
Will the District break the terms of the agreement by demolishing the house?
Answer: No, the District has used the property per the agreement with Dr. Trapp and plans to invest in improvements to continue to act per that agreement.
Will the District allow the family to obtain their own structural assessment for the purposes of restoring the house?
Answer: No, the District's Condition Assessment Report clearly shows that the building is not safe to access.
Why did the District allow the house to deteriorate to the point that it must be demolished?
Answer: Before 2015, Councils of the day allocated funding to the best of their ability on a priority basis. In 2015, the District set up a systematic program for asset management. At the time, analysis of the assets and their condition identified a significant shortfall in what the District had been investing in asset maintenance over the years, resulting in many assets being in poor condition. The house at Klee Wyck falls into this category. When considering priorities for funding, staff and Council work through the annual budget process, taking into account factors such as the current level of use of a facility, the anticipated future use; the current condition; the amount of investment required; other District capital and operating needs; etc.
What is Council's plan for the property?
Answer: Council continues to invest in the Asset Management Fund for future generations and plans to invest in Klee Wyck Park improvements.