Create with Garden City Lands responsibility

Arzeena Hamir and Chak Au with Richmond, BC, IESCO award. ALC chair Richard Bullock at Kalamalka Rotary.

In my view, almost everything that goes wrong turns out for the better. That view applies now to Richmond’s central park, our central legacy, the Garden City Lands.

Over eight months ago, City of Richmond staff came to council with a solid plan to enhance the park. By now, the project might have sailed through the well-charted “Inventory and Analysis” phase, but it seems off course to me.

My concern grew when I learned that project consultants had been told to consider a “major sports tournament site” or “major sports complex.” In the Agricultural Land Reserve!

They were to have a workshop on that use with a named single-interest group. In contrast, the project didn’t bring in groups that stand up for the community and licit use of the lands. That includes the Garden City Conservation Society and Richmond Poverty Response Committee.

A note: The conservation society’s “Friends of Garden City” aim to help steward the Garden City Lands’ natural legacy in the ALR for agriculture, recreation and conservation for community wellness. Richmond Poverty Response, which has long championed the lands, watches for gaps in service and ways to fill them.

Involving the community through service groups like those would have brought some balance and perhaps saved time and money.

That said, it’s time to look at who has responsibility to act.

As citizens, we pay the costs and expect benefits. We can alert those in charge and hold them accountable. We can insist that ALR values be restored as the guiding principle of the lands.

I expect the Agricultural Land Commission will squelch the tournament complex if it gets that far.

To this observer, the core problems are systemic. It’s up to the mayor as chief executive to solve them. Council could help.

Besides the undermining of ALR values, the big problem is in the city’s use of consultation.

Let’s start with the massive consultation in 2008.  It addressed a basic choice for the Garden City Lands: (a) ALR use or (b) non-ALR use.  The people overwhelmingly backed ALR use, as seen in the written presentations to the commission, a tribunal that decided on the people’s side.

Be aware that the anti-ALR side had used many open houses, a lavish brochure mailed citywide and a large phone “survey” later exposed as manipulating opinion under the guise of gathering it. Though slanted, the consultation was inclusive.

The people’s choice was to protect the legacy with ALR uses. If that is not honoured, then any further Garden City Lands “consultation” is just a drain on taxes.

The project team takes orders from above. Until things change there, their attempts at consultation will amount to window dressing at best.

Too big a problem? Need a boost of hope? Look at the photos.

In a 2011 one, Arzeena Hamir and Dr. Chak Au hold a plaque from IESCO (International Eco-Safety Collaborative Organization), a United Nations affiliate. They’d chosen Richmond as an eco-model for the world.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie said, “What made our city stand out is citizen leadership and participation.” A key instance, said Chak, was the Garden City Lands.

To the right, British Columbians (off camera) talk with Richard Bullock, chair of the Agricultural Land Commission. He and the Ministry of Agriculture drew on real consultation to strengthen the ALR, with a focus on good use of ALR lands.

Obstacles became stepping stones to those successes. We can do it again. One reward is a great ALR central park for all.

Firsthand knowledge helps.  Join in Garden City Lands park tours:

  • 7 pm, Wednesday, May 22, 2013 — Biodiversity Day.
  • Noon, Sunday, May 26, 2013.

Guided. Free.

______

This article also appeared as a Digging Deep column in the Richmond Review of May 22, 2013.

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