A photo of Burnaby Lake was shown as a potential one-and-a-half-page spread introducing the waterways section of the forthcoming Naturally Burnaby book. (City of Burnaby)

Showcasing Burnaby’s natural beauty

Naturally Burnaby will showcase the city's waterways, parks, gardens, and eco-sculptures.



December 2, 2021 | 5:00 am

The City of Burnaby is planning to publish a book highlighting the natural spaces within the community.

The plan is a 60- to 80-page softcover coffee table book, with the working title “Naturally Burnaby.”

The book will include four sections, ranging from mostly natural to manicured park space. The sections include waterways, parks, floral displays and gardening, and eco-sculptures.

Working titles for those sections are, in order, “Water is the essence of life,” “Natural escapes,” “Breathtaking colours,” and “Celebrating art.”

“Bounded by an ocean to the north and a river to the south, with two beautiful lakes and numerous winding creeks in between—water weaves throughout the fabric of Burnaby,” reads sample copy, presented to council this week, for the waterways section.

Each section will begin with aerial wide shots showcasing the concept being explored—for instance, an aerial overview of Deer Lake in the waterways section.

The waterways section will focus on the city’s duelling lakes, as well as the streams that feed into them and which they drain into. It will also include imagery from the Fraser River and the Burrard Inlet in the south and north extremes of the city.

Highlighting the big and the small

The parks section will feature a wide array of imagery. A sample of images presented to council include mushrooms growing on a log, a close-up of an orange flower, a tree-lined path flush with autumn colours, and a willow tree surrounded by a variety of plants and flowers.

“How interesting are these mushrooms just thriving on this moss-covered log?” asked Heather Rohrlack, the design lead for the book. “I, myself, have walked at Deer Lake for almost 20 years at my lunch break, and I’ve never seen them. I didn’t know they exist, but now that I know that this photo is there, I’m going to be looking for them.”

That, she said, highlights the importance of focusing not only on the broader picture but also on the minute details the city’s natural spaces have to offer.

Samples of photos for the floral displays include shots of the Rose Garden on Burnaby Mountain, the Millennium Garden, and the rhododendrons (Burnaby’s official flower) at Deer Lake.

Rohrlack said the eco-sculptures section represents some of the most meticulous work from the city, with features around Burnaby depicting sheep, owls, fish, eagles, dragons, and even a hot rod.

“The sky is the limit in terms of the imagery selection we have available to showcase,” Rohrlack said.

Deer Lake in Burnaby. (City of Burnaby)
Deer Lake in Burnaby. (City of Burnaby)

Going beyond the photos

The original plan was for the book to focus heavily on imagery—only showing text for cutlines, section introductions, and the general introduction.

However, councillors requested staff to add a few more details in the book. Councillors noted that the book will be shared with dignitaries—namely, officials from sister cities—and they would like to have population statistics about the city in it.

Coun. Alison Gu added the city should look at adding an Indigenous lens to the book.

“I think we would be remiss to feature so many landscapes without talking about the original stewards of the lands and how they used the lands, how they gave back to the lands,” Gu said.

“In the presentation, there was a phrase about how waterways and water is essential to life, and I know that that is something that I’ve heard many Indigenous communities say over and over again: water is life.”

She said she’d like to see not only Indigenous history with the land included, but also talk about how colonialism has impacted the land and how the city is seeking to learn from Indigenous communities about stewardship.

She said the book should “go beyond the land acknowledgement and have it really interwoven throughout the book.”

Kassam said staff will look at ways of incorporating that information into each section while retaining the minimalist approach to text in the book.

2,000 copies expected

The city was originally planning to print just 300 books, at a cost of $20,000, working with Burnaby-based printer Hemlock.

“But I’m really excited about this. I’m sure you’re really excited about this, and you’re thinking, ‘Whoa, those will go very quickly,’” Kassam said.

Now, the city is looking to print 2,000 copies of the book, at a printing cost of $35,000.

Coun Dan Johnston asked staff about the book’s marketing, noting books the city has printed in the past—about five books since he joined council—have often flown off the shelves initially before significantly declining in sales.

“Then we have boxes and boxes that sit for a couple years. I remember [it getting] to the point where Chad Turpin was handing out one book, two and three copies to anybody who would visit the city,” Johnston said, referring to a former deputy city manager.

“We just had to get rid of them because they were taking space. … I think it’s a really good idea; I’m just curious about what the strategy is.”

Kassam said the city has, in the past, ordered 10,000 copies of one book at a time. She added that those books are much more print-heavy, whereas these may have a broader appeal.

The city has begun the process of image curation, copywriting and visual design, with the first two expected to be completed by early next year and the visual design expected to run into the spring.

Printing is expected to take place around April, after a final review of the book, followed by a launch in May.

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Dustin Godfrey

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