Gratefulness can heal threats to the ALR legacy

Summerland_British_Columbia

The virtual Garden City includes places like Summerland where kindred spirits respect the ALR.

Richmond can be viewed as the birthplace of BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve, the ALR. And we have the Garden City Lands as a place in the heart of our community to celebrate the ALR legacy. But will a thriving ALR survive the current threats?

Threat 1 is from the BC government. To make way for pipelines and the Site C dam, they’re curtailing the Agricultural Land Commission’s scope in the North. Not best but not fatal.

Threat 2 is from Hon. Bill Bennett and Hon. Pat Pimm, the duo who took potshots at the commission last year. During the ALR boundary review in his Kootenay East riding, Minister Bennett criticized the commission and mused he might abolish it.

Minister Pimm then got tangled in a Wild West clash in his Peace River North riding. He seemed to back a maverick constituent who built a rodeo grounds after the commission turned it down, telling them, in effect, “Whataya gonna do about it?”

Fatal to the ALR? Not likely. Loose cannons don’t last.

Threat 3 is close to home. It’s the non-ALR uses embedded in the city’s concept for enhancing the Garden City Lands, our ALR central park. The key flaw is the sports-tournament site hidden under the “Community Field” label in the city’s concept survey. The survey is not valid at all, but its “results” could be used to mislead the Agricultural Land Commission.

A quick review: The truth slipped out when a city parks manager described the “Community Field” to council as soccer fields like “the field in front of Richmond High, five of them.” They’d need a huge parking lot, and no doubt the goal is still to add arenas, aquatic centres, etc. (as discussed earlier, e.g., in this letter and follow-up).

Pursuing non-ALR uses is turning our green field of hope into a graveyard of legacies. It even strengthens the lawsuit claim against Richmond that we’ve unjustly enriched ourselves at Musqueam expense. Still, the sports-complex crusade goes back 25 years, and it’s not deterred by details like the wrong place.

What if the commission gets fooled, like many citizens who’ve done the survey? The Garden City Lands have long been a chosen focus for anti-ALR forces, who watch and wait. If that high-profile property falls into non-ALR uses, it’s a precedent for allowing non-ALR uses on most ALR land in BC. Locally, the city would look absurd to rail against Port Metro use of ALR lands for non-ALR purposes.

Instead of that, let’s whole-heartedly support the commission. For instance, since it sees boundary reviews as overdue, we could even embrace one in Richmond if our turn comes. It could resolve the ALR-edge issues and dampen the speculator prices that make ALR farmland here so expensive to farm.

Let’s get back to gratefulness for the ALR legacy. As the old Garden City Lands Coalition and now as Garden City Conservation, many of us have celebrated it. We do that locally and also virtually with kindred spirits across BC and beyond.

We’ve always been blessed with a lot of support, a key factor when our grassroots movement faced impossible odds to save the lands from dense development. We give support too. That instinctive sharing far and wide is one of the subtle beauties of the ALR.

In that spirit, I’ll end with words from Erin Carlson, a Friend of Garden City who lives in the Okanagan. At 25, Erin has an agriculture degree and manages a 40-acre orchard. Lately she leads a campaign to save Summerland’s ALR. We naturally support it.

Erin writes, “The creation of the ALR forty years ago was not the end of a fight to preserve agricultural land but the beginning of a unique and wise direction for our province.”

______

This article was also published as a Digging Deep column in the Richmond Review of Wednesday, January 15, 2013.

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1 Comment »

  1. Let’s stand up for our farms, our farmland, and our future. Thanks Garden City for being a so resilient!


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