The Garden City lakes vision

A reservoir lake on the Garden City Lands may not seem like a vision for the lands, but I see it as symbolic of the vision of Save Garden City citizens:

  • Green in a broad sense
  • Idealistic but practical
  • Community enhancing

Let’s start with the basic practical aspect. We gather from Coun. Harold Steves that City staff have long hoped to have a reservoir on the lands in the form of one or more small lakes or ponds. As high-rises cover more of the City Centre area, storm runoff is no longer slowed the way it used to be when a good deal of the water was held up in vegetation and soil.

Something can be learned from the pond not far from the lands at Garden City Community Park, where Richmond’s parks staff have done a great job, much as they have done at Terra Nova Rural Park and other parks throughout the city. The pond (shown in the photo) is part of a relatively small stormwater retention system.

Appealing though that is, it’s only a start. The needs could increasingly overwhelm the drainage system without further stormwater retention improvements.

Reflecting the staff thinking, the 2008 application to exclude the Garden City Lands from BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) stated:

On-site parks may contain stormwater retention areas that serve as public amenity for the urban population as a water feature in public space. The non-chlorinated water may be channeled off-site to nearby agricultural land for irrigation. (Appendix 3, page 28)

Whoever wrote that  took part in one of the many self-contradictions in the ALR-exclusion application. That same application also claimed that agriculture on the lands would have to use City water that would be too expensive for the purpose. As you may have noticed, that makes no sense. A reservoir on the Garden City Lands that can irrigate farmland that is some distance away must be at least as good for irrigating the farmland that surrounds it.

The on-site reservoir lake system could also supply water for various other Garden City Lands uses where the water does not need to be chlorinated.

Naturally, on-site lakes would provide drainage for the Garden City Lands itself. And agrologist Arzeena Hamir tells me that—with lime added as need be—it could be used for irrigation for agriculture.

By the way, if you’re familiar with the post below this one, “Richmond’s uses—council’s concept,” you will notice that all of this is in keeping with “Showcasing environmental sustainability,” which is one of the three uses for the lands that council unanimously endorsed in December 2007.

Supporters of saving the Garden City Lands, as opposed to paving them, have tended to envision the reservoir lake system as being designed to be more than ample forever, for various reasons. For instance:

  • When the City Centre is even more paved, with a population that has reached or exceeded the projected 120,000 people, the lakes should still be able to handle the runoff from the heaviest rainfall.
  • Ample size would also reduce the possibility of the water level falling too low for habitat purposes in dry seasons.
  • If it keeps becoming harder to bring fresh water from the Fraser (without a level of salinity that ruins soil and crops), it will keep becoming more valuable for the Garden City Lands reservoir lake system to supply water for other Richmond farmland.

As a “water feature,” the lakes would be somewhere for people to relax on the shore and enjoy the mountains, perhaps from a grassy space with some native trees such as shore pines. Several people have suggested one criterion to me: they should be places where people can enjoy doing tai chi.

Since that image comes quickly to Richmond minds, I guess it’s become part of the community’s culture. Like the Garden City Lands.



  1. 1
    Roland Says:

    Re lakes and reservoirs on the GCL :

    The Garden City park lakes acts as a stormwater reservoir. In addition, the City has a water well it had dug to be used as a water source to keep this reservoir at reasonable levels. However, one imporant difference is this park is NOT built on ALR land.

    Storm water, in the “paved over” City Center, will generally interesect with roads, parking lots and the rain water will become contaminated with oils etc. from vehicles, chemicals in asphalt etc and whatever other toxins wash off these impermeable City Center surfaces. If the Garden City lands are used as a reservoir for such stormwater, what guarantee is there that the reservoir collected pollutants won’t leach into the surrounding ALR lands ? Would anyone want to irrigate the GCL ALR land with such untreated and polluted storm water ?

    In addition, aren’t bog areas such as the GCL sensitive to water levels, and wouldn’t the reservoir have to be finely tuned so as not to drain or flood the rest of the GCL

    In addition, the argument for a reservoir/lake is rather silly. Given the City Center area plan…the growth will occur in the Brighouse Industrial estates area., which are already paved over. Building a 16 storey Hi rise were 1- 2 storey commerical building exists will not change the storm water volume , the same historcal volume of water will flow given the impermeable surfaces which ALREADY exist in the general area, if you see my logic.

    These are consideration the ALC would look at. The City is simply making more irrational and desperate stabs to fool the ALC. Finally, such lakes always attract many nuisance animals like Canada Geese which crap all over the paths and grass, add pathogens to the water , and duly note that the GCL is very close to YVR flightpath and attracting such arirborne wildlife can have tragic results for planes .

    • 2
      kewljim Says:

      Presumably farmers would take precautions, just as they normally would if irrigating from ditches.

      Yes, bog areas are sensitive to water levels. That’s one of the values of having reservoir lakes with water available to help make adjustments as needed. (The “Richmond’s uses” for the Garden City Lands and the ALR-exclusion application did not seem to assign importance to that factor, but I took those sources further and did imply that it is important.)

      Yes, the reservoir(s) would be adjusted to avoid problems. With a larger reservoir system, that would be easier, as discussed.

      The city anticipates increased need for additional stormwater retention. That is stated in contexts that have nothing to do with the Agricultural Land Commission.

      There was a promising basic idea that the highly regarded writer of Appendix 3 chose to include. Coun. Harold Steves has also promoted the basic idea. The factor that makes the reservoir lakes concept most obviously practicable is the stormwater retention aspect, which is rational and forward thinking to preempt desperate situations later. The rest is a great bonus for people who are looking for improved sustainability.

      My post shares a concept. Naturally the city engineers and agrologists would need to collaborate with other planners in the design and implementation and, before that, in revising and refining the concept.

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