Supporting the ALC and the GCL

This was published as “Commission invited to keep us wonderful” in the Richmond Review of March 14. Since it hasn’t appeared on the Review website, here’s its online version.

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Bullock-portraitUnless one wants them to be scythed at the knees, now is the time to support the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and the commission that stewards it. The debris from two cabinet ministers’ klutzy comments has already hampered the commission.

As the Richmond community, most of us would like to help, and it’s for our benefit too. To act, Garden City Conservation delivered this open letter to Richard Bullock, chair of the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).

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Dear Richard Bullock:

In service to the community, the Garden City Conservation Society must blow the whistle on a stratagem to slip contra-ALR uses onto Richmond’s ALR central park, the Garden City Lands. This matter will impact the ALR future of the lands and the province.

Our perspective: We aim to help steward the natural legacies of the Garden City Lands with ALR uses for community wellness. Along with food security, the ALR uses would include ecological and open-land park ones. We are open to a spectrum of lawful uses.

ALC history: In 2006 and 2009, the commission refused to exclude the lands from the ALR, rejecting the owners and the City of Richmond. In 2010, thanks to those decisions, the city was able to obtain the property. The price reflected the ALR zoning, with a premium to escape a bad deal.

Citizens’ input to the ALC has embraced the ALR value of the lands, even when the city and its partners skewed the issue. Sadly, the skewing continues in a city project to enhance the ALR park: the city’s concept for the park is camouflaging contra-ALR features.

The stratagem: The worst contra-ALR use in the city’s concept is “Community Field.” It slipped out that “Community” is doublespeak for “Organized Soccer,” with five fields.

For good reason, the proponents have previously mocked the idea of grass fields on the lands, so grass would give way to synthetic turf, along with parking lots. Also, they have long coveted the lands for sports complexes such as arenas and aquatic centres.

The city is now neglecting the restorable sphagnum bog, a millennia-old ecological legacy with agricultural significance. With the city’s concept, it would deteriorate faster, paving the way for sports buildings if anyone would pay for them.

Faux consultation: The city has hosted two big events to market the Garden City Lands as a blank canvas waiting for a legacy to appear. The events fostered enthusiasm and learning despite the false premise and contra-ALR aspect. However, the climactic survey is not-at-all valid; in fact, its design wards off the chance of other views affecting the findings.

Better options: If more playing fields are now needed, the city could restore some of the fifty grass fields that were “released” when the city brought in artificial turf fields. In neighbourhoods that “opt in,” the old fields could be upgraded for teams and informal play.

Another location for fields was the large park just north of the Garden City Lands that the city has cancelled even though the ALC had, in effect, pointed it out for amenities in a 2006 staff report.

Community benefit: The true legacies of the Garden City Lands are hurting, but our ALR central park can be salvaged with a focus on celebrating the ALR, not outwitting the ALC. The park would celebrate the ALR legacy of the lands, the Garden City and the province.

Request: Help our central park be wonderful—not bad—for the ALR. Everyone wins.

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