Sports fields an option for Garden City Lands?

Today’s Richmond Review published this asSports fields are not an option for the Garden City Lands.”

Re: “Garden City Lands are the wrong place for aquatic centre, stadium” (Oct. 26).

The growing clarity about acceptable ALR uses for Richmond’s Garden City Lands is good. I hope it will enable the promised 2013 consultations to get as much informed input as the previous round in 2008.

To that end, I’ll address the lingering idea of grass sports fields on the lands. It seemed like an option years ago, but the logic against it is so strong now it’s just a harmful distraction.

First, B.C.’s Agricultural Land Commission will not agree to that use. Two of the factors: its decisions are getting stricter, and the city appears to ignore the commission staff’s advice (Apr. 11, 2006) to locate amenities for the area in adjacent non-ALR lands. In fact, the city even canceled a nearby 12-acre park this year.

snow geeseSecond, wetlands like the Garden City Lands are unsuited to sports fields. And grass is far less suited to organized sports than synthetic turf, as Peter Mitchell of Richmond Sports Council told city council (Feb. 28, 2011). He included the image of “a person being at risk for going home wearing a byproduct of a half-dozen geese in certain seasons.”

(From the snow goose perspective, the short grass of a sports field is a fast-food bonanza. So easy to get at the tasty roots!)

Third, Richmond has lots of better fields in disuse. When the city added two synthetic fields, it said they would “release approximately 50 existing playing fields in residential neighbourhoods” (Sept. 22, 2008). Let’s ask neighbourhoods if they’d like their “released” fields restored—with synthetic turf or, geese willing, well-drained grass where desired (plus thief-proof goalposts, etc.).

Fourth, grass sports fields are as bad as stadiums and synthetic fields in the Musqueam lawsuit context. In contrast, prudent uses of the Garden City Lands may defuse the “unjust enrichment” claim against Richmond.

Fifth, previous input revealed an abundance of promising ALR uses of the lands for community wellness. The next step is to add and integrate for excellence, not reduce to mediocrity or worse.

To be clear, real turf can still belong on the Garden City Lands. For natural playgrounds? Grass gathering places for all ages? Peaceful pond-side lawns for tai chi? Green dining room for the snow geese? It’s up to all of us.

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