Getting PARC trails on the Lands soon

The all-weather dyke trails in the PARC concept for the Garden City Lands are popular, especially because there is a lot of impatience to be able to explore the lands. Trudging into deep growth and stepping into hidden streams isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, and people also rightfully want to avoid damaging the life on the lands that they aim to conserve.

The dyke trails are shown in darker green in the PARC concept map at left. (Note: It’s conceptual, not intended to be precise like a blueprint.)

Judging from questions, the PARC trails require more explanation. It will take a longish one because so many other factors are involved.

I agree with the intuitive public sense that some main trails need to be built early on to enable access. However, a lot of the analysis and planning that’s needed first has inexplicably not been done. As far as I can learn, it has not even been started. Skipping prudent steps in order to make up for the lack of action is not an option. However, identifying the needed steps is a good foundation for catching up by using an efficient process.

A key reason for extensive planning is that the dyke trails would all serve ecohydrology goals, with such water-management purposes as:

  • Irrigating and draining for agriculture and recreation
  • Controlling the supply of the contaminant-free and nutrient-free precipitation required for bog restoration
  • Maintaining optimal water levels for conservation (e.g, about 30 cm below the surface for restoring the bog ecosystem)
  • Assuring protected reservoirs of drinking water for emergencies
  • Enabling other selected purposes such as aquaculture, geothermal heating, and permaculture

It is common sense to make the hydrology dykes also serve as trails, with the effect that they will be wide and raised a little. That way they will be:

  • Usable year round for recreational use and service use (as access lanes for service vehicles)
  • Inviting for a range of users, including those who use wheelchairs and including both bicyclists and walkers (with enough trail width to enable safe use by all)
  • An intuitive message (complementing educational methods) to stay on the trails and off any sensitive bordering areas.

Like the dykes, an area roughly corresponding to what’s labeled “multi-purpose area” on the PARC concept map also needs to be worked on early, with an all-weather trail linking it to the ecology dyke trail to the east of it. It would be similar to the ecology dykes but isn’t shown on the PARC map yet because the optimal placement for hydrology value is not yet obvious.

Some examples of the studies that need to be done are:

  • Inventories/maps of all forms of life on the lands
  • Water table levels by location and time of year, and also deep water movement (probably like the northwestward movement under the DND lands but possibly not)
  • Land composition, e.g., via drilling for core samples (largely replacing the inadequate study that was done in the context of high-density construction on the lands)
  • Future needs for community gardens and community farms, especially for the city centre
  • Availability and suitability of potential community partners, including one or two principal partners such as an urban-agriculture education partner (e.g., Kwantlen Polytechnic University, since the city has involved Kwantlen in related efforts since early 2008)
  • Availability of suitable fill for the dyke trails and multi-purpose area
  • Need for the existing drainage system to be outside the dykes along Westminster Highway (where there’s a long ditch on the north side of the road) and Garden City Road (where there’s a series of often-clogged drains about 15 metres east of the road and closely spaced, typically 20–25 metres apart)

In my view, considerable initial investigation needs to be done by Richmond staff, hopefully in consultation with knowledgeable community people, just to determine the scope of the studies.  One example is that the city can use its own expertise and available outside expertise to determine the kinds of fill that may be available for constructing the dyke trails and what the PARC map calls the multi-purpose area. We actually checked on that in connection with including the dyke trails in the PARC concept, and the city could either start by talking to us or go about it some other way, but the point is that the initial investigation would be wide-ranging but can also be done efficiently by drawing on readily available collaboration.

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