Revisiting the vision

A year ago, several Save-Garden-City presenters at the public hearing into the now-rejected ALR-exclusion application used a conceptual map as a visual aid. The map, with some discussion, remains available on the “Future” page of the Garden City Lands website. In this post, I’ll begin with the relevant excerpt and then, from this year-later perspective, add further reflection.

Citizens' vision for the future Garden City Lands

Many alternatives to high-density development have been proposed. At the Garden City Lands open houses [in February 2008], Garden City Lands Coalition members were available at all times to listen to the visitors’ ideas. The vast majority of visitors wanted to keep the Lands for purposes that can be permissible within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR). Urban agricultural education was very popular, and a surprising number of people would be content to leave the lands the way they are. What the supportive visitors had in common was the desire to keep open green space.

Many of the open house visitors were concerned about retaining the food-growing capability for community uses. There was a general willingness to compromise on particular uses provided that the lands are kept in the ALR and not built up. The following illustration expresses the Richmond citizens’ vision. It’s all possible within the ALR.

The citizens’ vision map for the Garden City Lands is conceptual, and many of the features would ultimately be located in different places. For example, the main reservoir lake would be placed wherever the City engineers and agrologists choose, perhaps in the wide strip of non-bog fill along Alderbridge Way. Similarly, while some of the trails are in logical places, others are just where the artist happened to put them.

Reflecting a year later, I see particularly that sports fields need to be addressed in another way. The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has been rejecting cities’ attempts to use ALR lands for sports fields, and the artificial turf fields that are in vogue would be especially out of place. If the Garden City Lands become available as an agricultural and ecological park, then I think it’s important for citizens to ensure that the need for sports fields is being very well met—elsewhere. That could begin with upgrading of fields that are little used because of poor drainage, and it might include adding more artificial turf fields for reliable availability through our long rainy season.

My sense is that there is growing awareness of the value of keeping wetlands as bog and habitat, and there would probably be public support for retaining a wetlands area that is considerably larger than what the map labels as “natural habitat.” It would be in the parts where the sphagnum bog is deepest, largely to the east and the south. I don’t see the division as being a straight line drawn through the lands because that isn’t how nature chose to develop the bog and it wouldn’t be an attractive way to do things. Since the ditch along Westminster Highway actually drains the southeast corner too much, there might need to be reduced drainage in that corner, even though the west side needs better drainage, perhaps including the reservoir lake(s) that are needed for City Centre stormwater management.

I gather from Hon. Linda Reid, MLA for Richmond East, that constituents are very interested in a memorial garden, which she envisions as including a grove of maple trees. That would need to be in the northern part of the lands, where the ALC permitted up to 50,000 cubic metres of clean fill to be deposited years ago.

Of course, the property may not be available for these purposes. In that case, all of the Garden City Lands will probably remain as greenspace and wetlands, since Canada Lands Company, along with the Musqueam Indian Band, has said that the lands will not be farmed.

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