Heeding the history of the Garden City Lands

History matters. That includes Garden City Lands history.

Mary Phillips, a past chair of the Richmond Poverty Response Committee, wrote the Richmond papers about it:

I am alarmed that the city’s website on planning for the Garden City Lands contains none of the recent history of the lands and the long fight to keep it in the Agricultural Land Reserve. (Richmond News and Richmond Review)

At the same time, the project team held a “stakeholders meeting.” Though very well led, it was sapped by symptoms of the blanked-out history. For instance, there were anti-ALR “stakeholders,” still bent on big buildings and dense residential on the lands.

For those who remember it, the history shows that as a costly path to nowhere. But, as Mary has alerted us, the history has been blanked out. It’s as though there were no mistakes to learn from. I’d best fill in the time (2005 on) when the community rallied to defend the lands.

People like you and me had to take on powerful parties that tried to take away the rightful ALR status of the Garden City Lands. We brought out the ALR values. The Agricultural Land Commission agreed with our view and rejected the other one.

Sounds simple, but the tasks were immense. Sadly, we had to overcome our own corporate city. It’s an instructive part of our history, and we need the city to heed it, not hide it.

Mary Phillips’ letter also recalled the genesis of the Sustainable Food Systems Park. I think the 2007 illustration (below) radiates the spirit of a unique central park that’s beautiful and bountiful. Note, though, that the uses shown were later refined for a better ALR fit.

Sustainable Food Systems Park concept for Garden City Lands, 2007 graphic (with uses that the proposal later revised)

Note: Updates to the 2007 Sustainable Food Systems Park proposal for the Garden City Lands have adapted some of the features in this early illustration for a better ALR fit. (For easier reading, just click on it to enlarge it.)

When poverty response and food security came together with ecology and open-land recreation to conserve the Garden City Lands, the people looked to enable all those ALR uses to succeed together. That’s seen in later updates to the proposal, which also goes well with Garden City Conservation’s PARC concept that respects nature as a wise guide to what’s best where.

The Sustainable Food Systems Park calls for education partners. Our local college, now Kwantlen Polytechnic University, stepped up in early 2008, and council asked staff to look into 48 acres of the Garden City Lands for the sustainable agriculture program. Director Kent Mullinix, PhD, recently wowed a Garden City gathering with his program’s vision. Along with education and research, its goals feature community outreach. That’s key.

Speaking of goals, have a look at the Sustainable Food Systems Park ones. If you don’t quite grasp the higher values that drove the community to save the Garden City Lands, that will help.

The goals are within reach, but the Garden City Lands would be just a sprawling construction site now if the people hadn’t acted, holding firm against all odds.

The spirit of the Sustainable Food Systems Park is harmonious. For example, one of the goals looks forward to the lands as “a community meeting space to counteract the isolation caused by immigration, age and poverty.” It’s salving, and to me it’s inspiring.

That park vision put our best foot forward. When we aim to do what’s right, it’s good for all of us.


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