Revised GCL concept still loses legacies

Since my last “Digging Deep” column, City of Richmond doublespeak about the Garden City Lands has redoubled. That could fool citizens and the Agricultural Land Commission about intents for our central park.

It’s a shame. While city resources get sapped, we’re losing the natural legacies of the lands, including unique legacies of agriculture, ecology and wellness. The only comfort is that things could have been far worse if the community had not saved the city from itself a few years ago.

The city had got caught in the quicksand of a bad deal to turn the federal Garden City Lands into dense development. The city got the booby prize, an iffy right to buy half the area. Much was to be “scattered throughout the property” at the seller’s whim. The rest was for an exhibition centre with a leaky business case, which sank.

Almost all the many groups and individuals who wrote to the Agricultural Land Commission advocated ALR uses for community benefit. The community won. That result was a thousand times better.

Five or six years later, the city’s concept for enhancing the lands is back at council. The new version still disguises contra-ALR uses, but they’re been dolled up. The “Community Fields” (five soccer fields) now look prettier and have new names (“The Commons” and “Event Field”) and more acres. They’re #22 and #24 in the pretty graphic below. They’re still contra-ALR and still belong in better places in Richmond.

City of Richmond concept for Garden City Lands, March 2014

I hoped the new version would finally show a basic sense of how to restore the sphagnum bog ecosystem. That knowledge, readily available from Garden City Conservation, was a skipped aim of the first phase of the six-phase project. Despite slight progress, it’s still missing in the final phase. Goodbye ecosystem. It’s another huge and senseless loss of natural legacy.

The project does continue to do some aspects very well. That has included the Garden City Lands ideas fair and open house, two marketing events. The stated goals and principles are mostly great too. I just don’t see them applied enough.

As a key example, I looked at the perimeter trail. It’s essential infrastructure and should be a top priority but isn’t. I looked for mention of its ALR use as a farm road (for service vehicles) and for water management, but that’s lacking too. The shallow ALR thinking, an aspect of the zealous drive for contra-ALR uses, is the fatal flaw.

The trails, especially the perimeter one, should be trails for everyone, but I see no mention of mobility scooters, walkers and wheelchairs in the lengthy report and no sign of them in about 35 trail illustrations. It’s an aspect of the same disregard for ordinary people that led to the senseless loss of viewscape legacy.

The problem is the stultifying expectations from above, not the staff who do the work.

Although the contra-ALR uses are bad for the community, they’re unjust enrichment in the context of the Musqueam lawsuit, raising Richmond’s risk.


Important meeting: This matter is on the agenda (Item 2) for the meeting of Richmond’s parks committee, chaired by Coun. Harold Steves, on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, at 4:00 p.m. in the Anderson Room (east end of 2nd floor) at Richmond City Hall, SW corner of No. 3 Road and Granville Road, Richmond. Normally citizens get a chance to speak on the agenda item for up to 5 minutes. It is good to bring speaking notes, which one can provide to the recording secretary for inclusion in the minutes. The full agenda package is here. A smaller version, which also allows rotating of images when opened in Acrobat or Adobe Reader, is here.


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