Where sports fields don’t and do belong

I once thought a space for soccer fields could co-exist with Agricultural Land Reserve uses on the Garden City Lands. I was wrong. It would be fatal.

Luckily, a window on the idea slid open in a televised council meeting after public outcry prompted council to correct the Metro mapping of the lands to comply with their protection in the ALR.

Two councillors talked about areas of grass sports fields. One divided the lands into 80 acres of bog and 56 acres of sports on trucked-in topsoil.

It was said that the sports area would produce food if the need arose. That’s not reaslistic. Otherwise, the lands would already be meeting food-growing needs such as community gardens for the city centre.

Since buying the lands was a large investment, surely there should at least be an expert plan for the best ALR uses by now, 18 months later.

Re sports fields, the context is that the city cut back on upkeep in local parks when youth soccer moved to artificial turf. Let’s start restoring local fields, including aids to runoff (e.g., 2.5% slope from the crown past the sides, with perimeter drains). Drainage would naturally be better than on the Garden City Lands, and community wellness would be better served too.

In any case, sports fields are not an ALR use. The Agricultural Land Commission can approve them for good reason, but there’s no honestly good reason for them on the lands.

Just as a scenario, pretend the commission swallows a lie. Wetland gets paved for parking and converted to grass fields, which are underused. By then the lands are no longer an agricultural unit, so they get excluded from the ALR more easily.

That story ends with artificial fields, giant sports structures, and parking lots. Our green legacy in the city centre dies.

Each passing day with no expert plan deepens the risks and losses. We’re losing the bog ecosystem, the option of an urban-agriculture partnership with Kwantlen University, food security, and more. For nothing.



  1. 1

    We need a really big shift in thinking. What is wrong with leaving it just the way it is? Until we stop looking at every open natural field as a waste, we’ll just keep hurdling down the road to extinction.

    Spend some time on Google Earth one day. You will find that Canada is one of the last holdouts for natural flat “usable” land. Usable for who? Developers or nature? Who needs nature?

    Who needs to breathe?

  2. 2
    Julian Hudson Says:

    The reality is that at least 1/2 of the whole area is ALREADY grass! It’s not native, bog vegetation at all. In fact, that whole area is degrading year after year, partly because of mowing. No bog in the world remains intact with roads and ditches surrounding them. Eventually, they dry out and other types of vegetation begin to grow.
    This “leave it alone” attitude is alarmingly pervasive. We can only leave places and creatures alone when they are living as they have always done without any negative impact from us. Once impacts exist, we have a duty to fix what we broke; to manage a species or an ecosystem in a way that brings results that as close to a “natural” situation as possible. Let’s be clear, there may in fact be nothing left on the planet that is in a state of pre-human impact, so we can only achieve “as natural as possible”. As far as ecosystems, without management, you have to be OK with succession, the natural process of change; meaning that eventually, the Garden City Lands will no longer be bog. That is already happening as the land drys up and gets overwhelmed by “domestic” grass. The nature park is a good example.
    I band birds and get the same “just leave them alone” argument. Birds are declining at an alarming rate, even common species now, and unless we understand everything about their lives, we won’t be able to do anything to stop them from going extinct.
    If you can look past the emotion (and believe me, I for one am very emotional about what we are doing to our environment), learn, understand and get properly connected to what is going on (not just what you think is going on), you will see that intervention is almost always needed.
    To everyone involved in this land debate:

    PS I DON’T support developing the area! Just bringing some reality into the discussions.

    • 3
      kewljim Says:

      Julian, the PARC post right above this one seems to be in keeping with your ideas.

      However, with regard to mowing, the reality is that there are only two possibilities at this time: (1) mowing the lands in the current sort of way and (2) leaving the lands alone with no mowing. Coun. Harold Steves has always made a strong case for the first option. Michael Wolfe, who knows the ecology of the lands better than anyone else, is in agreement, since the bog would degrade faster without that human intervention.

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