Sports fields are still not an option

This will appear in the Dec. 12 Richmond Review. It follows up on the article immediately below this one and a response in the paper.

Re: “Sports fields are not an option for the Garden City Lands” (Nov. 30) and Roy Oostergo’s essay (Dec. 5).

Thank you to Roy Oostergo, a respected sports leader in our community, for taking time to address my sports-fields letter in an essay almost twice as long.  Perhaps I was too concise, especially about my intent.

First, I and all the directors of the former Garden City Lands Coalition Society were open to all ALR uses of the lands. The intent of my recent letter was to advise the community about a big change. I felt a responsibility to end the lingering effects of an outdated view, and I drew on the best available knowledge, including Sports Council input to Richmond council.

When there was a good chance that the Agricultural Land Commission would allow sports fields on the lands, the coalition said so. When the situation changed so that “approval of that use would be extremely unlikely even if wetlands were not obviously unsuited,” we said so too. The coalition website added those words a year ago below the old vision map that includes sports fields.

Naturally, the essay caught me by surprise with its tone and its implicit premise that I should foresee every conceivable cavil and then pre-answer in full. No-go. I draw on the extensive knowledge I’ve honed while writing at least 200,000 words about the Garden City Lands, but the details in my letters can only be concisely informative, not interminably so.

Besides, no volume of detail helps if an essayist keeps turning it into straw men, a fallacy that significantly alters someone’s position to give the illusion of refuting it. In the following instance, that was done to my suggestion to restore some of the fifty neighbourhood fields that were released from sports use a few years ago.

My letter: “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.).”

The essay: “I do not believe an informed sports field user community wants the old mud pits back.” Classic straw man!

And Roy Oostergo is a far better person than that.

The essay did make one promising point, which was about “a 2010 ALC decision approving playing fields on ALR land in Kelowna.” I followed the online link to a 2011 decision to accept a strong application from Okanagan College re part of its Coldstream (Greater Vernon) campus. Since then, the ALC Act was bolstered, and the commission has taken full advantage. Not much gets by it in 2012.

In 2012, the commission even refused most applications to place agricultural fill/soil on ALR lands in this region. Except in the corner that’s best for agriculture, the Garden City Lands would need a lot of fill to raise the level for sports. But the commission’s rejections keep saying “Not all agricultural land is created equal, nor is it all flat.” And that’s in regard to real agricultural uses, not sports that can be located in at least fifty better places.

Last, taking the Musqueam lawsuit lightly could ruin us. The Musqueam as a business keep outsmarting people. Just the one claim I alluded to could deprive us, as Richmond, of half our annual budget.

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