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Forget that you are only a fence and a ditch away from a major freeway, and you could just as well be lost in a scene from The Prisoner or a particularly unsettling episode of the Twilight Zone.

The reality is less eerie than ironic: an eroding and literal deconstruction of an entrepreneurial free-market utopia: Fantasy Garden World. This microcosm echoes the big picture, the scent of tulips and easy money has given way to the more pungent smell of big profit and development.

Germinated in the florid imagination of former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm and then brought to life in South Richmond, Fantasy Gardens -- an eclectic (some might say inane) theme park comprising an almost cartoon-ish medieval European village with working windmills, Giverny-like gardens with lily ponds, Japanese bridges, clock towers, a faux-Crystal Palace, a miniature train and a chapel out of Little House on the Prairie -- will soon be dismantled and relegated to history's waste basket.

A large portion of the 8.5 hectare property not part of the agricultural land reserve will soon (early in 2010) be levelled and transformed from fantasy into the concrete reality of a mixed housing and commercial development, planned and built by Townline Homes of Richmond.

At present the gardens are overgrown with weeds (with a rare tulip daring to flaunt its petals), the train and its Wild-West-themed Adventure Park are dismantled and in ruin, and the quaint Euro-ambiance serves as a stand-in Romanian village for an upcoming Nickleodeon TV movie, a vampire comedy spoof called The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

It seems an all too predictable and surreal fate for the theme park, which Vander Zalm sold in 1991 to Taiwan billionaire Tan Yu -- a deal that forced Vander Zalm to resign as premier after a provincial report found he was in conflict of interest over the sale.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Photo Essays

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