Received a request: Tell us bluntly what the Garden City Lands project must do now to succeed.
Okay, but first a review. We’ll use the sky view of the Lands. It shows where water settles in rainy season. (Darker is wetter.)
The graphic also draws on findings about vegetation patterns by local expert Michael Wolfe (2011) and consultant Terry Taylor (2013), which were similar.
The green lines represent the main routes for dike-road trails. Notice the curving green line, the central dike-road trail.
As dikes, the trails retain rainwater in the sphagnum bog restoration area on the No. 4 Road side. That’s a natural legacy.
The bog ecosystem needs a high water table, so it’s good the bog area is wet. There’s a drier area near the centre, but it surrounds a wet saucer of sphagnum moss, the best patch of that keystone species.
The graphic was made for a column in early 2014, after citizens used a late-2013 survey to demand that dike-road trails be built without delay.
The Taylor study was the biophysical inventory, an essential, but the funding was skimpy, and it shows. The project needed to fill it out with an inventory of soil and vegetation at a practical level of detail. Act now, I urged.
Ha-ha. Parks staff enlightened me, “We always take years and years.” So true.
This brings us back to the dike-road trails. With better guidance, they could be placed just right and built with little harm to nature. The aim is to start building them soon, so Garden City Conservation gave council an urgent report last week.
The report’s focus was on the central dike-road trail. In the project plan, the southern half of it drifts far to the west, bringing in many hectares that are beyond restoring as sphagnum bog ecosystem.
I’ve added the “PEAT BOG” label to what the City of Richmond’s project is showing as peat bog, with a whole lot in the southern half that is far along in ecosystem succession that it will never function as a peat bog ecosystem again. It could be used well for other conservation or for agriculture, but not in the peat bog area.
Including all those extra hectares could defeat the purpose of the enclosed bog restoration area. It was to raise the water table with precipitation and keep it raised, enabling year-round water for native bog vegetation.
The problem is that invasive plants use up a lot of water and harm the water quality. (They harm the desirable acidity and add undesirable nutrients, e.g., by dropping birch leaves). To support the legacy ecosystem, we have to get rid of invaders, not welcome them. Anyone planning the central dike-road trail route should know that.
In contrast to what I’ve described in the City’s map, the central dike-reoad trail route I’ve drawn in at right follows what the project’s Biophysical Inventory consultant and Michael Wolfe imply to be the natural boundary for the southern half.
It’s essentially what I showed on the satellite map early in this article but a little closer to being precise.
It is knowledge-based to the extent that is possible at this time.Unfortunately, the project has seemed more whim-based than knowledge-based.
What’s more, if hired experts are given whims as a starting point, their answers to the wrong questions are just a waste of money.
On the bright side, a May 30th project update has made use of community input. Also, we’ve come a long way from the days of 2008 when thousands of us had to fight to save the Lands from development, making the park possible.
Now we need the City of Richmond to whole-heartedly do what’s right.
Once again, Garden City Conservation urges results-oriented consultation with the goal of celebrating the ALR quality of the Lands. That could still lead to one of the world’s great parks.
At less cost. In less time. With joy.