What does our goal mean?

“Steward the Garden City Lands in the ALR for agriculture, recreation & conservation for community wellness.” That’s the caption on the front of the bookmark (shown above) that the Garden City Lands Coalition was happy to give to almost six hundred visitors to the World Food Day Celebration in the Richmond Public Library last Saturday. It expresses the goal of the citizens who strive to save the lands from non-ALR uses like big inappropriate buildings and for appropriate ALR uses.

While enjoying the World Food Day experience, I realized that a post that discusses the goal would be helpful for many of those good people, as well as for others who didn’t manage to be there. Here goes.

The Garden City Lands is a large green space in the City Centre area of Richmond. The size is usually stated as 136 acres. (A detail: Because of smaller parcels on the north, south, and west edges that aren’t usually counted, it is actually over 140 acres unless those parcels are left out of the park, an odd step.)

The ALR is the Agricultural Land Reserve, British Columbia’s land bank that provides legal protection for the province’s scarce fertile land. The Garden City Lands have always been in the ALR, and they were confirmed to belong in the ALR by decisions of the Agricultural Land Commission (the tribunal for ALR matters) in 2006 and 2009.

The founders of the ALR wisely tried to include all land that was suitable for agriculture, even if it might be best used for conservation and related kinds of open-land recreation. The whole range of uses is “ALR uses.”

It happens that the Garden City Lands is zoned as Agriculture by the City of Richmond as well as provincially (ALR). On Metro Vancouver’s “land use designation” map, the Garden City Lands are to be called “Conservation & Recreation.” The provincial zoning has precedence, so the Metro designation will not change anything. It just implies that the ALR uses of the lands will include emphases on conservation and open-land park recreation, along with agriculture.

It also happens that the appropriate uses for the Garden City Lands are a blend of agriculture, conservation, and recreation, and it can even be said that the entire lands are fully each of those things at the same time. I’ll leave that for another post, “Listening to the Lands = PARC.”

Since the Garden City Lands are a wonderful expanse of Richmond-owned parkland, the citizens of the local area (the City Centre, which needs parkland) and the whole community should benefit from them. The final word in our goal, wellness, means physical, mental, and social health, and community wellness is a goal of Richmond’s parks. For optimal community wellness from the parks system, it is important that the lands be used in their unique ALR ways that complement what the other parks (mostly non-ALR parks) can do for wellness.

There is one more word in the goal, the first one, Steward. The purpose of the ALR is not just to protect fertile land but also to encourage appropriate active use, and the Garden City Lands Coalition urges the whole community to take responsibility for that.

After all that explanation, I have a confession to make. The goal that the Garden City Lands Coalition has expressed on behalf of the community could actually be expressed simply as “Keep the lands in the ALR.” The rest is implicit. Furthermore, our goal is basically just a reflection of the legal reality that the Richmond-owned parkland called the Garden City Lands is in the ALR and has been strongly confirmed to belong there. We state the goal in more words than that because people find the longer version clearer.

Even though our goal is the legal reality, powerful parties have used every means at great expense to overcome that legal reality, and we know for certain that they have not given up. We work toward the goal without pay and at our own expense. Why? Because the Garden City Lands are a unique legacy from Richmond Past that we, the community, must somehow save and steward as a priceless legacy for today’s needs and “our children’s children” in Richmond Future.

Let’s end with the back of the bookmark (shown below) that we shared with visitors to the World Health Day Celebration. It shows a little of what we’re passionate about.

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