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Coffee With: Family forges a new path after losing their son to a mental illness
David Boyer has travelled along Indian River Drive an infinite number of times in his 70-plus years on this earth.
He’s memorized every sharp curve on this remote, coniferous tree-lined road that leads him home to a beachfront community in Indian Arm called Woodlands.
Boyer first visited Indian Arm when he was six months old. In the 1940s it was where his grandparents lived.
“Back then, this was a gravel road,” says Boyer, walking alongside the narrow two-lane road on a frigid December morning.
While Boyer grew up in West Van, he returned to Indian Arm in the 1970s to raise his family. David Jr. came along in 1974 — a loving, gentle soul, describes his dad of his only son.
Dave, as he was affectionately known to family and friends, had an affinity for the outdoors. He would often step outside his childhood home, which was enveloped by the forest, and set off to camp out somewhere in that boundless backyard.
“He was most happy in the trails,” recalls Boyer.
One of Dave’s dreams in life was to map out hiking trails on the mountain ridges that rise thousands of metres above Indian Arm. Plastered on his bedroom walls were topographical maps of the eastern Seymour area, to serve as motivation.
After high school, Dave studied forestry at UBC. Around the same time, he became an avid cyclist and triathlete. Life was good.
Prior to the 1990s, Indian Arm offered a slice of solitude. The residents’ drinking supply still came from a nearby creek and was dispersed through a community water system.
At some point, Indian River Drive was paved. And, in increasing numbers over the years, outdoor enthusiasts have converged on the area.
For Boyer, a small stretch of this road had caused him worry in recent years. In its current configuration, half a kilometre of the popular Baden Powell Trail moves out of the forest and onto Indian River Drive, where hikers and motorists have reported near misses.
The dad also had other troubling things on his mind. Years ago there had been a serious car accident involving his son.
Dave, who was 19 years old at the time, was cycling on Keith Road when he was T-boned by a vehicle.
His father says doctors dealt with the physical injuries, but there would be other life-long challenges.
“All of his friends talk about [Dave] being different after that [accident],” explains Boyer.
Dave was never assessed for a concussion. Now studies have come out that draw a correlation between concussions and mental illness, says his father, solemnly.
This past February, at the age of 38, Dave succumbed after a 20-year battle with depression.
Ten months later, his family is bridging the gap between grief and healing. They are spearheading the rerouting of that perilous stretch of the Baden Powell Trail at Indian River Drive back into the forest — in memory of Dave.
The estimated $150,000 project involves constructing a 10-metre clear-span walking bridge over Francis Creek, and two small wooden foot bridges.
The Boyer family is working with the District of North Vancouver’s parks department on the project, but is fundraising to cover the cost themselves.
“Here’s another creek we have to cross,” points Boyer, who today is dressed the part of a hiker in khaki pants, a fleece jacket and a blue cap.
A sunbeam illuminates a colony of low-lying lush ferns in the dense forest. Boyer mentions taking his family south in a few days for their first Christmas without Dave.
“It’s very difficult,” he says. “You have no idea what it’s like to lose a child.”
He looks forward to the spring, when many volunteers will help clear part of an old skid road and create a meandering trail that will connect the old path with the new one.
A ceremonial opening of the Baden Powell Trail Memorial Connector is being planned for Sept. 26 — Dave’s birthday.
For more information on how to volunteer for trail-building, or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit bpmemorialconnector.com.