Only an hour from downtown Vancouver, and dominated by the formidable, sturgeon-filled waters of the mighty Fraser River, Mission is a rural town with forestry and agricultural in its roots, boasting stunning landscapes and an intoxicating small town energy from atop a hill
Traditionally known as a through town to Maple Ridge and Abbotsford, Mission has steadily been building a reputation as a destination unto itself. With 253 square kilometers of open space, rolling hills, farmland and forests, this Fraser Valley hot spot of nearly 40,000 full time residents is sure to impress.
History & Geography
The district municipality of Mission occupies the ancestral territory of the Sto:lo people. They used the area as a base for hunting, salmon fishing, trading and farming. A Coast Salish village in the area has been carbon-dated back as far as 9,000 years ago and now serves as a Canadian Heritage site as the location of the oldest dwelling in British Columbia.
The Fraser Valley Gold rush that led to the founding of the province of British Columbia in 1858, saw the arrival of the first European settlers – Catholic Priests known as the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. They founded St. Mary’s Mission in 1862, giving rise to the initial name of the settlement – Mission City. Mission began to expand with the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, helping to hugely boost the city economically, helping to include farmland, a sawmill, post office and other societal institutions – further, Mission became the first BC city to be linked to the US by train. Mission was infamously the site of Canada’s first train robbery in 1904, the handiwork of notorious outlaw Bill Miner.
The town continued as a land promotion. Mission’s commercial properties and some residential streets were auctioned off during the Great Land Sale of 1891, when the sing-span Mission Railway Bridge was built to span the Fraser. The province’s first Board of Trade, the Mission Regional Chamber of Commerce was founded in June of 1893. With retail and commercial businesses booming, agriculture blossomed as well. Into the 20th century, Mission expanded to include dairy, fruits and vegetable farming, at one time being heralded as the Strawberry Capital of the World.
Located on the north shore of the Fraser, the southern portion also straddles the Stave River and two hydroelectric dams. Stave Valley is largely rural and forested, a trait that has come to epitomize Mission. 40% of Mission is a municipal forestry farm, making it 50% of BC’s communities with municipal tree farms, comprising most of the northern end of the district. Situated in prime coastal temperate rainforest environment means Mission enjoys a mild oceanic climate, enjoying plenty of precipitation and upwards of 2000 hours of rainfall per year.
Dominated by waters laden with Sturgeon, the Fraser is British Columbia’s largest river, and lies directly in Mission’s backyard. The natural attraction of the area has helped the region to establish itself as a wonderland of adventure for tourists and locals alike, showcasing its coastal mountains, abundant firs, cedars and hemlock forests, and varied topography. The municipal forest measures a staggering 10,520 hectares, including hiking and biking trails all around.
Heralded by Supernatural British Columbia as one of the province’s ‘most active communities,’ Mission’s natural claim to fame includes world class White Sturgeon (these prehistoric fish have been caught at sizes upwards of 19 feet in length) and salmon fishing, and incredible camping and swimming at Alouette Lake. Showing off its prime farmland and beautiful agri-tourism industry, Mission makes a day of touring to many farms, brewpubs, and cultural festivals on curated circle-tours.
Parks & Recreation
Being the rural and natural landscape that it is, Mission is no slouch when it comes to parks and recreational opportunities. Mission’s largest park, Fraser River Heritage Park, was regrettably once home to the St. Mary’s Residential School, but these days, is a favourite destination for those looking to rejuvenate themselves is a natural setting and is one of the most popular community parks in the region. The park is ideal for gatherings and boasts many arts and cultural happenings geared at community involvements and enjoyment. Catch a movie under the stars, or take in a concert like the Roots n Blues Fall Fest as part of Mission Culture Days.
Mission features over 20 local parks, some featuring amenities like volleyball courts, paved pathways, boardwalks, washroom facilities, baseball diamonds, soccer fields, concessions, and playgrounds.
Throughout Mission’s municipal forest, there are ample opportunities for horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, boating, snowmobiling and swimming. The Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association maintains an additional 40+ km of trails on top of the 11 recreation trails maintained by the municipality on both Bear and Red Mountains.
Mission routinely publishes a top-notch recreation guide, full of everything you’ll need to know about parks, recreation, cultural programming, events, and rates associated with the municipalities parks. The city has recently invested time in a comprehensive master plan for parks, recreation and culture, starting with a detailed review of past plans, public input and other surveys. The plan will help to dictate how the community will manage their natural settings.
The Mission Leisure Centre is home to an incredible state-of-the-art local hub of recreation, featuring a fitness studio, 3,600 sq/ft weight room, squash courts, multi purpose rooms, physiotherapy clinic, pools, rinks, curling facility, basketball courts, a cafe and grill – and a 300 foot water slide that boasts a 30 foot drop.
Arts & Culture
Mission hosts many engaging and sophisticated community events, arts gatherings and festivals. The ongoing Envision Twilight Series is a music-in-the-park style event, taking place in Fraser River Heritage Park every Wednesday and Friday.
Home to Mission Race Ways, the community gets together for various motor-sports events like Smoke, Fire and Thunder, featuring a 3-day event of jet car racing, hot rod, super shifters, super combo and NHRA Summit ET Racing series. The MNET Radio Music Festival is a one day music festival situated in Centennial Park in Mission. Admission is free and the festival features 6 artists throughout the day.
The Mission Museum is operated by the Mission District Historical Society, and is dedicated to recording local history, and educating the community by preservation of historical records. The museum itself is housed in a 1907 building that originally served as a bank, and features an Edwardian garden on premises. The Mission Arts Council is a co-operative group that advocates for the creative work of its members, nurturing awareness of, and involvement in commitment to the arts within the community. The Council operates the Mission Art Gallery in a restored heritage building dating back to the 1920’s, and typically feature the works of local Fraser Valley artists. The council also sponsors the Mission Children’s Festival, offering artsy fun for the entire family.
Education & Healthcare
Public education in the Mission area is administered by the School District 75 Mission, and includes students from nearby unincorporated areas to the east like Deroche/Lake Errock, Dewdney, Nicomen Island, Hatzic Island and McConnell Creek. The district has 12 elementary schools (K-6), two middle schools (7-9) and one secondary school (10-12). There is one Francophone school in the area, école des Deux-rives primary school, operated by the Conseil scolaire francophone de la Colombie-Britannique.
Medical services are offered courtesy of Mission Memorial Hospital and Fraser Health.
Economy & Transportation
Forestry, hydroelectricity and agriculture remain as Mission’s main economic drivers, providing the basis for various forms of related retail and services. Transportation improvements within the last decade have allowed manufacturing sectors to expand beyond that of sawmill operations and food processing. The forestry industry focuses mainly on red cedar shake and shingle milling, with dairy as the big agricultural business, along with poultry, beef and vegetable farming.
The largest employers outside of these main industries are the District School Board, and the municipality itself. The median income in Mission in 2005 was about $27,726, courtesy of city-data.
Mission is accessible via the Abbotsford-Mission Highway 11, and the Lougheed Highway 7, as well as via the commuter rail West Coast Express, running five trains daily between Vancouver and Mission City. Bus transit is operated by the Central Fraser Valley Transit System that connects with nearby neighbors, Abbotsford. BC’s transportation authority, TransLink operates service between Coquitlam Central Station via route 701.
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