Richmond, on the Coast
Richmond in Metro Vancouver
The City of Richmond on the coast of British Columbia, Canada, part of the Metro Vancouver area, occupies all of Lulu Island in the Fraser River Delta except the small New Westminster portion upriver and all of Sea Island, site of Vancouver International Airport, across a river channel to the northwest between Richmond and the City of Vancouver. Vancouver and Burnaby are neighbors across the river to the north, New Westminster to the east, and Delta across another channel of the river to the south. The ocean as the Strait of Georgia is to the west. Burkeville on Sea Island next to the airport and Steveston in the southwest corner of Lulu Island were independent villages before they became parts of Richmond
Richmond’s 2011 Census population of 190,473 ranks it fourth in Metro Vancouver and in the province behind Vancouver, Surrey, and Burnaby. At 60 percent, mostly Chinese, Richmond is the North American city with the largest proportion of Asians, more than half, many of whom have immigrated from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China since the early 1990s.
Geography and Hydrography
Richmond has plenty of rich, alluvial soil for farming, but the land is ever prone to floods at high tides and especially when the river crests at high levels during seasons of heavy snowfalls. As a safeguard, a system of dykes now surrounds the major islands to hold back and divert such inundations that can cause catastrophic damage, so although farming had a fast start with dairy, grain, vegetables, and berries as staples in Richmond’s flat terrain of rich, fertile soil, it was necessary to clear, drain, and dyke the land to protect it from flooding and make it safe for successful farming. Today, the British Columbia Agricultural Land Reserve sets most of eastern Richmond aside for farming. Cranberries and blueberries are the principal crops. Other staples are strawberries, corn, and potatoes. In 2001 about 47 percent of British Columbia’s cranberry farm acreage was in Richmond.
The groundwater table is high, so very few homes have basements and very few buildings are more than three storeys high. The proximity of the airport limits building height to 150 feet.
In November 1879 the Township of Richmond became an incorporated municipality though not as a city until December 1990. The first town hall was near the main settlement on the northwestern tip of Lulu Island at North Arm.
In the 1870s, salmon canning became a major industry in the fishing village of Steveston. By the 1890s, there were nearly 50 canneries, and many ships docked in Steveston to take on big loads of canned salmon. Boatbuilding thrived too. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site in Steveston displays the city’s canning history in an 1894 waterfront facility with a museum.
Richmond connects to Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Delta by bridges and tunnels. Three bridges connect Lulu Island to Sea Island and the airport, one bridge connects Sea Island to Vancouver, two connect Lulu Island to Vancouver, one connects eastern Lulu Island to Burnaby and New Westminster, and one bridge and an underwater tunnel connect Richmond to Delta.
Richmond has two high-speed freeways, Highway 99, which includes the tunnel to Delta and ends at Interstate 5 at the USA border, and Highway 91, which starts in Richmond’s Garden City Lands, runs eastward to New Westminster, then turns southward, crosses the river into Delta, and joins Highway 99 a few miles from the international border. SkyTrain service connects both central Richmond and the airport to Downtown Vancouver.