What’s next for the man who’s lived in Stanley Park for 30 years?

This is the final story in a three-part series about a man who has lived in Vancouver’s Stanley Park for the last three decades. Read the first part here and the second part here.Stanley Park looks quite different now than it did in 1990.The green, lush forest is becoming a shadow of its former self with thousands of trees being cut down and removed.And having lived in the park for 34 years, Christenson Bailey notices everything.The 74-year-old man set up his small, tarped campsite deep in the park more than three decades ago to make art, be inspired, and live in peace.He’s lived by flashlights and candles, caught wild geese and ducks for food, and stayed on good terms with the park rangers.Bailey says he used to hear certain birds singing every morning, but those melodies have gone quiet.In one area of the forest, there used to be a small stream flowing where owls would come and bathe.“Really beautiful,” Bailey says. “They don’t do that anymore.”Each time a plane flies overhead, Bailey needs to block his ears.“I get hundreds of (planes) in a week. And it’s more in the summer,” he says, irritated.But the changes never bother Bailey for long.While walking through the park during an interview, Bailey sees a logging truck drive by carrying dozens of downed trees. It’s part of the Vancouver Park Board’s efforts to fight an infestation of hemlock looper moths.The sight of so many majestic trees being razed from Vancouver’s most beloved park might weigh heavily on some. Surprisingly, Bailey is at peace with it.“Life goes on,” he says as the truck drives by. “This environment element doesn’t exist without a continuum. In the universe, the only positive outlook to put out is life goes on.”

1:03
Living by candlelight: Stanley Park’s longest resident on the quest for light

So, too, must Bailey’s life go on. And he knows it.He started making plans to exit the park in 2019, which involved trying to re-establish some mainstream aspects of life.“I did not wear, say, blue jeans for a couple of decades, and I only wore blue jeans as a token experience in re-interfacing with society,” he recalls. “(I experimented with) purchasing some jeans to see what it felt like.”In the same year, Geoff Bodnerak, the case worker who’d been trying to help Bailey get some kind of government identification, left his position for personal reasons, and the task was never completed.The Vancouver Police Department and other city agencies are helping him now, in preparation for him to transition into housing.Until now, he has resisted, and police are hesitant to arrest him.“I knew that in order to get him out of the park, it would have been by force,” says Sgt. Susan Sharp with the VPD’s Mounted Unit, which operates out of Stanley Park.“I know that’s not something the police or the rangers were ever willing to do.”Where could Bailey live after spending more than three decades in relative isolation in a forest?Bodnerak tells Global News he believes Bailey would struggle to go into housing and find it “very claustrophobic.”Bailey himself says he’d like to become an artist in residence somewhere, or live in shipping container housing, or even return to living in Montreal.He wants to be “ideally in a natural setting.”

0:43
Christenson Bailey reflects on his time living in Stanley Park

Reflecting on his forest home

Bailey is a vastly different man from the one who went into the park back in 1990 — a former bartender and corporate worker who made a decision to change everything.“I could call myself enlightened, you know. I shed a lot of burdens,” Bailey says about his self-development, for which he credits meditation, art and the quiet of the forest.He describes his “analytical ability” as being “woefully in disarray” before coming to Stanley Park. Now, he proudly states that is no longer the case.“Teaching yourself the truths between yourself and what you’re doing without any third party, without anyone else, that’s your guide to go forward and you build from that.”

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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