Finn Slough is one of the most unique places in Richmond, and one of the oldest residential communities. It was established by Finnish immigrants back in the late 19th century. Their stilt homes were built on the intertidal zone of a Fraser River slough as it was an ideal location for mooring boats. Back then, the Fraser River was the primary form of transportation.
Finn Slough is a community symbiotic with the Fraser River estuary wetland ecosystem. It is home to a variety of indigenous flora and fauna species. However, because of its location on an intertidal zone, it was never zoned as a proper residential community, and was never subject to the same rules and regulations as properly zoned residential areas within the City of Richmond. Technically, intertidal zones are Federal jurisdiction, not municipal, so this is why Finn Slough has had a very complicated history.
For many reasons, over the past century there has been a lot of controversy over Finn Slough. Some people cite its lack of zoning (and thus lack of property tax, lack of city infrastructure, etc) to be a legitimate reason to destroy the community. Others simply feel that Finn Slough's an eyesore. And then there are much more complicated issues. Years ago an Ontario company purchased farmland adjacent to the slough in hopes of developing it into multimillion dollar mansions. The development company wanted to evict Finn Slough of its residents, even though Finn Slough is protected by Environment Canada and would never be allowed for development anyway. At the moment, Finn Slough's future is uncertain, but it has always been this way.
Many Richmond residents mistake Finn Slough as a community of poverty and squatters, however, this is not the case. While only 3 families who currently live there are descendents of the original Finnish immigrants who founded the community, the majority of people living in Finn Slough are regular every day people - artists, teachers, and such, who have chosen to live there as a lifestyle. They wish to live sustainably with the environment, to protect this fragile habitat for future generations, and to show that humans can indeed live harmoniously with nature. Finn Slough has also become an inspirational place for artists, and each year the Richmond Art Gallery hosts an exhibit on art about Finn Slough.
Finn Slough, though not a tourist attraction, can be accessed from the south foot of No 4 Road in Richmond. The boardwalks are open to the public - just be respectful of the community and the environment.
Most visitors to Richmond will visit Sea Island, whether they realize it or not. That's because the island is almost entirely taken up by the Vancouver International Airport. But there are a couple of other things on the island. One is Iona Beach. Apparently this is technically on Iona Island, but you don't cross any bridges to get there.
Iona is wild beach, left in its natural state. It is a major bird habitat (indeed, a sanctuary is nearby but not open to the public). There are expansive tidal flats, wildflowers and a mile-long jetty. If you take a bike you can avoid the early closing and enjoy a sunset picnic.
The park is open from 8am to 9pm. On the way out there you pass by two houses, right beside the runway, at the Sea Island Equestrian Centre. What a strange place to live.