Tsawwassen is a suburban, mostly residential community located on a peninsula in the southwestern corner of the Municipality of Delta, British Columbia, Canada. Tsawwassen provides the only road access to the community of Point Roberts, Washington via 56th Street. It is also the location of BC Ferries' Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, built in 1959 to provide foot-passenger and motor vehicle access from the Lower Mainland to the southern part of Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands. Because Tsawwassen touches a shallow bank, the ferry terminal is built at the southwestern end of a 3 km-long causeway that juts out into the Strait of Georgia. The ferry dock and causeway are part of Highway 17. Boundary Bay Airport, a major training hub for local and international pilots which also provides local airplane and helicopter service, is located ten minutes away. The Roberts Bank Superport is also located near Tsawwassen.
To the northwest of the community of Tsawwassen are the lands of Tsawwassen First Nation ("TFN"); a people of Coast Salish ancestry. This land is bounded by the Strait of Georgia on the west, the 2600 block to the north, the 4800 block to the east, and the 1200 block to the south. While also part of TFN lands, the 92-lot residential subdivision of Stahaken was leased for use by the (then) Tsawwassen Indian Reserve to Staheken Developments Ltd., in 1989 for a 99-year term. It was then developed in a partnership between Stahaken Development Ltd. and the Municipality of Delta. As such it is commonly thought of and serviced in the same manner as other subdivisions in the community of Tsawwassen. Stahaken residents are represented by the Stahaken Homeowners Association.
Tsawwassen had a population of 20,933 in the 2006 census.
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Tsawwassen is situated on the northern end of a peninsula flanked by the Strait of Georgia to the west and Boundary Bay to the east. Boundary Bay is an important stopover for migratory birds on what is known as the Pacific Flyway. Tsawwassen has recreational access to Boundary Bay at Centennial Park, and there is an extensive bike/foot path running along the edge of the Bay, known as the Dyke.
The southern boundary of Tsawwassen is the Canada–US border with the United States, following the 49th parallel of north latitude. To the north, Tsawwassen's nearest neighbour is the town of Ladner, which is also part of the Corporation of Delta. Together, Ladner and Tsawwassen make up the area known as South Delta. Ladner is the site of the Delta Municipal Hall. Both the police station and hospital serve Ladner and Tsawwassen.
Tsawwassen's lowest altitude is just below sea level, and its highest is at 70 metres at the Point Roberts border near 56th Street.
Tsawwassen and surrounding lands are considered the ancestral home, and traditional lands, of the Tsawwassen First Nation, a Coast Salish people, who may have lived in the area for over 4,200 years, the age of the oldest archeological site found on English Bluff. Eight different prehistoric villages have been unearthed around Tsawwassen.
The first group of Europeans to see Tsawwassen was the expedition of Spanish explorer Jose Maria Narvaez Gervete in 1791. Narvaez named the Point Roberts peninsula Isla de Zepeda and wrote that "there is an incredible quantity of rich salmon and numerous Indians... They speak an entirely different language."
The history of Tsawwassen, and the municipality of Delta, is on display at the Delta Museum and Archives, in the original city hall building, on Delta Street in Ladner Village.
Tsawwassen is divided up into a grid with streets running north/south and east/west. Running east/west are the avenues, numbered with 1st Avenue closest to the Canada–US border. Running north/south, the streets are numbered following the grid laid out for the municipality of Delta. This grid is part of the greater street grid set out by the British Royal Engineers in the 19th century.
The main arterial street in Tsawwassen is 56th Street, which connects Highway 17 with the exclave of Point Roberts, in Washington, USA (upon which it becomes Tyee Drive). It runs through the main commercial area, centered at the intersection of 12th Avenue with 56th Street. This border crossing is the westernmost border crossing on the 49th parallel between Canada and the USA.
Tsawwassen is serviced by buses from TransLink. Buses serve the main bus loop at the South Delta Recreation Centre, where many terminate at Bridgeport Station in Richmond.
Since 2001, Tsawwassen has played an integral part of the Tour de Delta, a bike race that happens over a weekend in July. The racing weekend culminates in a race from North Delta, through Ladner, and then finally to Tsawwassen, where the men and women do various laps around Tsawwassen's perimeter until finishing in either Diefenbaker or Winskill Park. This race is growing in popularity and coverage with every year.
For many years, people selling their cars parked and displayed them in the east parking lot of Town Centre Mall on Sunday mornings and afternoons, where they can be seen by people passing through on the way to Point Roberts. For several years, the mall has charged a small fee and provided signage and a large designated area in which to display the cars. Dozens of cars and hundreds of shoppers now come from all over the Lower Mainland each Sunday.
In keeping with its reputation as the sunniest spot in the Greater Vancouver Region, every year on the August long weekend (for B.C. Day), Tsawwassen hosts the Sun Festival, which usually includes a parade, a variety of live music events and activities, such as children's games, food tents, and sporting events. There is often a specific theme to each year's event, and people are encouraged to dress the part.
Public schools in Tsawwassen are part of School District 37 Delta. Tsawwassen has only one public high school, South Delta Secondary School (SDSS), formerly South Delta Senior Secondary.
There are five public elementary schools in Tsawwassen. These are Cliff Drive, Pebble Hill, South Park, English Bluff, and Beach Grove. A sixth school, Boundary Beach (Grades K-3), closed in June 2009. There is also a small French programme cadre school, Ecole Du Bois-Joli, for students with French language spoken at home.
Boundary Bay Elementary School, formerly located on 56th Street south of 12th Avenue, served grades K-7. With usually one class per grade, it was a small school, and shared a principal with Boundary Beach Elementary School. Grades 3-7 students from Boundary Beach were bussed daily to attend the school. The school was closed in the early 1990s, and the land sold. It is now a residential development. There was also a middle school called Tsawwassen Junior Secondary (TJS), but low enrolment led to its closure in 1994. This land was also sold by the school district and re-developed into a housing subdivision.
Private schools in the Tsawwassen area include Southpointe Academy, a private K-12 school; Delta Christian School in Ladner, a Christian private school offering grades K-8; and Sacred Heart Elementary in Ladner, a Catholic school offering Grades K-7.
Tsawwassen contains many community and regional parks; Boundary Bay Regional Park (home to Centennial Beach) is run by the GVRD. The following parks are maintained by Delta Parks & Recreation, an arm of the municipal government:
The following parks aren't officially recognized by the municipality, but still exist within Tsawwassen's boundaries:
Tsawwassen, like the whole of the Municipality of Delta, was initially only serviced by Delta Cable (since sold to Eastlink) for TV and cable internet services, although Shaw now offers its service offerings as well.
As in all of British Columbia, incumbent telephone services is provided by Telus; the area codes serving Tsawwassen are 604 and 778 - though the latter is primarily used for cell phones. The original CO Code servicing Tsawwassen was 943, but as the population expanded, a new code, 948, was introduced in the early 1990s. New codes have since been added, and local number portability has blurred traditional exchange differences. Phone calls within Tsawwassen or the entire 604/778 region must adhere to the process of 10-digit dialing.
Tsawwassen is home to the largest shopping centre in South Delta (Tsawwassen Town Centre Mall). Other businesses in Tsawwassen are Save-On-Foods, Tim Hortons, McDonalds, White Spot, Thrifty Foods, Shoppers Drug Mart, Dairy Queen, two Starbucks and many more. On April 29, 2009, the Tsawwassen Town Center mall experienced a fire, closing a large percentage of the mall, as a result of complications involving a roofing contract. Anonymous management in the complex claims the delays in the reconstruction of the damaged areas are due to asbestos insulation.
Tsawwassen is known for its relatively dry and sunny climate compared with other locations in Metro Vancouver. For example, it receives nearly 40% less precipitation than downtown Vancouver. As typical of the Vancouver metropolitan area it has an oceanic climate with cooler summers and milder winters than other areas on the Canada–US border. Due to the drying trend in summers, it has a cool-summer Mediterranean tendency, but winters are cooler than the Mediterranean climates experienced on more southerly coastal locations.