The bog wetlands vision

To a large extext, bog is what the Garden City Lands already are. For many supporters of keeping the lands green in the Agricultural Land Reserve, bog is an important aspect of what they should be. For some, keeping the greater part of the area as primarily bog or wetlands should be the dominant aspect of any vision that is implemented.

Michael Wolfe, a Richmond teacher and conservation biologist, has roamed and studied and cleaned up the Garden City Lands all his life. At left, he is leading an eco-tour of the lands. By the way, the next scheduled opportunity to do a tour with Michael is Saturday, May 22, 2010, at 10 a.m. (Details soon.)

On Day 3 of the Garden City Lands public hearings in March 2008, Michael Wolfe presented his vision, which gives priority to maintaining the wetlands and conserving wildife and plants, especially endangered ones. He has prepared an inventory of Garden City Lands wildlife, which he offered to make available to council. He also talked about eleven edible species of plants that grow on the lands.

Coun. Harold Steves, at right with the Garden City Lands stretching out behind him, wants to preserve and enhance the bog while still keeping the whole area as green space that can be used for growing food as the needs arise. When council members spoke on Day 6, the final day of the public hearing, he emphasized the bog values. In particular, he showed and recommended a remarkable guide that had just been published: Biophysical Inventory and Evaluation of the Lulu Island Bog (Neil Davis and Rose Klinkenberg, editors).

Councillor Steves expressed a similar vision at the Richmond council meeting of May 8, 2010.  In the deep-peat areas, there would be up to 86 acres left as it is but with the water table raised to fourteen inches from the surface in summer. There might be a raised boardwalk for the parkland visitors so that water flow isn’t impeded. Ideally there would be weeding out of invasive species to promote native species such as low-bush blueberries. That would leave about 50 acres to be rehabilited with clean clay sub-soil that is already stockpiled on the west side of the north part of the lands, along with Class 1 topsoil. (Note: The peat is a bit deeper on the east side, and the native vegetation has survived better in the southeast.)

The vision of bog conservation was also expressed on Day 5 of the 2008 public hearing by Eliza Olson, the  president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society. That’s the Burns Bog behind her, but she is a student of bogs in general. She told the hearing that “peatlands store three times as much carbon as a tropical rainforest.” In her call to conserve the Garden City Lands, she informed council, “There’s more than one type of bog, and the rarest and most unique is the raised bog at the mouth of a river, and that’s what you’ve been given to look after.”

The vision of John ter Borg, seen at right in another of his public service roles, would round out the others in this post. He has told me about it on Michael Wolfe tours of the Garden City Lands and the Burns Bog. His theory is that the economic value of the Garden City Lands is greater as a bog (e.g., as a carbon sink) than as anything else. Apparently he knows how to show that by means of  an engineering project that would provide ongoing measurable information, and I’ve asked him to write out the concept so it can be better shared. (The project strikes me as being a long-shot possibility, but I’m hoping for a bit of further insightful enhancement of the bog wetlands vision.)

Some background you may find interesting: John ter Borg was very busy helping plan and implement the Bridging the Gap conference that brought the world to UBC at the end of March. Engineers Without Borders states that it “creates opportunities for rural Africans to access clean water, generate an income from small farms, and have improved access to the services and infrastructure they need to improve their lives. John’s international efforts must do a lot of good, and fortunately he now has a little more time to do good locally too—with the Garden City Lands.

Note: One reason I chose the particular photo of John ter Borg and provided the background is that a recent commenter on this blog who opposes the ALR thinks that people who support the ALR are engaged in a war on the poor, specifically Third World farmers. A single example doesn’t prove anything, but it does illustrate.

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