Respect the people, nature and legacies

Microsoft Word - JWright_2013-03-10_graphic.docx

Jim Wright, at right, says the City of Richmond must save the legacy of its city centre viewscapes for the people. The views shown are from the Garden City Lands, “Richmond’s central park” between Garden City Road and No. 4 Road. Top left, in a northward view on a spring 2004 morning, the mixed urban forest along Alderbridge Way enables a natural viewscape. Top right, on a late-winter 2011 evening, a grey Walmart-mall sand pile interrupts the view toward the Lions. Middle, from near Westminster Highway that evening, the marred viewscape looks restorable. Bottom, the developer’s Garden City Smartcentres video gives glimpses of the intended mall on the north edge of Alderbridge. It would permanently eliminate the natural trees and natural viewscapes.

This is rooted in Richmond’s remnant of mixed urban forest. It’s across Alderbridge Way from the Garden City Lands, the storied Agricultural Land Reserve farmland that is our central park.

The forest is a wildlife corridor with a diverse ecosystem, and it was always protected as an ESA (environmentally sensitive area). Its trees and shrubs are also a vital part of the natural viewscapes one sees from the park and neighbouring areas.

Our viewscape legacy is under attack and may soon be destroyed, mainly by the proposed Walmart mall. In the short term, the mall plan must be fixed.

I recently chatted about it with Richmond poverty-response people in the viewscape setting and afterward. We gained insights.

If you’ve had a look at the photos and caption, let’s get straight to the insights. (We’ll come back to the detailed picture later.)

First, the visual affront of ruined viewscapes is not just excruciating. The low standard it embodies would get applied to our central park.

Second, by ramping up density while cutting back park (West Cambie Natural Park, R.I.P., for instance), city hall made the City Centre Area and West Cambie Area greenspace-deprived, extending a poverty aspect to a wide community.

Third (that said), looking out for the people in greatest need is good for all citizens. That’s true of spirit-lifting views and accessibility, for example, and it nourishes the transformative culture of caring, as at Terra Nova.

Fourth, many residents have trouble getting to places like the Terra Nova parks and Garry Point but greatly need the wellness values of viewscapes and open-land park, including the social, mental and spiritual ones.

Fifth, poverty response advocates, who’ve been left out of the planning to enhance the central park, would like to be involved.

Sixth, if the city decision-makers start valuing the taxpayers like a big developer, the scarred “protected” area will be healed and better than ever.

Now the detailed picture, as promised.

The poverty-response advocates spoke with me at the Garden City Road entrance to the lands at the start of a recent eco-tour. We looked north past Alderbridge to a clearing, in the ESA but piled with sand. We also looked at images of how it was and how it will be unless there’s new respect for Garden City legacies.

Trees “protected” by the tree bylaw had been killed some time ago, with ESA protection cast aside. Then staff asked council to approve a revised mall plan that terminates every tree, including some in the SmartCentres video, on three-fifths of the Alderbridge block, 150 metres deep and stretching from Garden City Road to No. 4 Road.

In 2012, the developer’s plan added a large living-green screen and a parkade-roof greenspace to placate big-developer Polygon, giving it green viewscapes for its planned condos overlooking the mall and Garden City Lands. But mall sprawl would mar even more ESA.

Fortunately, the majority on council seem open on the urgent matter of the wildlife corridor that serves double duty for Garden City viewscapes. Still, it takes courage to stand up for citizens, not big developers and their staff enablers.

We simply want at least a 20-metre ribbon of our Alderbridge wildlife corridor to be genuinely protected—and with it our viewscapes. We say “Respect the people, nature and our Garden City legacies.”

Effective change is still doable. To save the day, it takes at least five council members who strongly put Richmond first.

__________

You can contact Richmond council about this or other issues at mayorandcouncillors@richmond.ca . On issues related to the Garden City Lands and Garden City conservation, it’s appreciated if you cc or bcc GardenCityLands@shaw.ca.

Note: The developer, SmartCentres, working with City of Richmond staff, has extended the Walmart mall to a larger area than what is shown in the SmartCentres video that was made available in April 2011. However, the changes do not improve the key aspects of (a) destruction of the wildlife corridor that was protected as environmentally sensitive area, ESA, and (b) (a) destruction of viewscapes.

Update: A recent article, “Please show me the Alderbridge wildlife corridor,” answers a councillor’s request.

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