Archive for the ‘Respect Garden City’ Category

Welcome to Garden City conservation

August 12, 2018

Richmond, British Columbia, Canada has long been known as the Garden City. This blog aims to provide informed in-depth opinion on a range of conservation issues of interest to the Garden City community, which is centred in Richmond but extends around B.C. and the globe.

Coming and  Recent Events—Farm Fest on the Garden City lands

Richmond Farm Fest, Saturday, August 11, Garden City Lands, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond Nature Park Society and Richmond FarmWatch will all have tent booths.
Leaders of Garden City Conservation and Richmond FarmWatch ranged from enthusiastic to ecstatic in their responses
. For instance, they said it was “a great day” and “a successful and engaging event” and “the sort of happening the Garden City Lands Coalition envisioned when they successfully fought to save the Garden City Lands from dense development for this kind of park.”

Background for newcomers

It began when the citizens had a vision for the Garden City Lands, a 136-acre field in the city centre that had always been green through historical good fortune. By acting together and with BC’s Agricultural Land Commission process, they saved it—from dense multi-billion-dollar development—for the higher value of its Agricultural Land Reserve uses for community wellness. That is one of Richmond’s priceless legacies from the past for the present and the future 20, 50 and 100 years or more from now.

Turn down the pH in here!The lands have become a city park, with a major park enhancement process under way, and the citizens aim to help steward the lands in the ALR for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness. That would include restoration of the sphagnum bog on much of the lands. Sphagnum moss, illustrated at right, is the keystone genus (group of species) that spent millennia leading the forming of the lands.


We began as the Garden City Lands Coalition and evolved into the Garden City Conservation Society, active in various conservation issues in Richmond and beyond, with many “Friends of Garden City.”

 Current and Recent Events

OS Permaculture Design workshop at the Red Barn, Terra Nova Rural Park,Richmond, BC, on Saturday, June 2, 2018 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free. To register, see the Permaculture Design event poster.

Sunday, June 10, 2018, 1:30–3:30 p.m., Annual Gathering of the Garden City Conservation Society. Details soon.

Saturday, June 16, 2018, 1–3 p.m. Annual General Meeting and Farmland Policy Presentation. At Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 8771 Lansdowne Rd, Richmond. Details here.


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If you support the Garden City Conservation goals, you can subscribe to the Garden City e-News. You will receive a brief emailed issue (one page) no more than an average of twice a month. It is very simple to unsubcribe. It is also simple to subscribe—here.

Save our ALR! And revitalize it!

April 23, 2018

The ALR is our land bank. Agriculture minister Lana Popham wants to save it, and her ALR Revitalization Committee is doing well.

Your survey input will help them prove how strongly you and all British Columbians support revitalization. Please do the survey in an informed way.

Looking through our ALR Revitalization Survey Guide (PDF) will bring you up to speed. Or just go to the survey if you wish, but you’ll still find it worthwhile to refer to the guide.

Feel free to skip survey questions. Please at least do the multiple-choice ones, using our suggested answers unless you disagree.

Thank you for doing the survey! You’re a good citizen who saves our soil!


Note: The deadline is Monday, April 30 at 4 pm.

Here’s the very informative and thought-provoking Richmond response to the survey about revitalizing the Agrcultural Land Reserve and Agricultural Land Commission (prepared by staff and approved by council).

Here’s the ALR Revitalization Survey Guide in Word. If you support the directions of ALR Revitalization Committee (Minister of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee), feel free to adapt the document for that purpose.

Thanks on behalf of the ducks

January 24, 2018

Ten years ago, “Save Garden City” spirit swept over Richmond, B.C.

The Garden City Lands, “the people’s lands,” a huge 55-hectare open field in Richmond City Centre that had always been publicly owned, seemed doomed to dense development. With immense effort, the people—loosely organized as the Garden City Lands Coalition—saved the Lands from development, enabling them to become a public park instead.

Citizen Sharon Doucelin recently sent this note about the Garden City Lands to Jim Wright and the Garden City Conservation Society after rainy weather had created a lake:

Thank you for all the wonderful hard work you have done to make this happen.  As I drove by the park today, I saw the ducks swimming in the lake.  It reminded me of how upset I was as a younger person when the city allowed apartments to be built on the southwest corner of what was then the Lansdowne track. 

I worried for a long time about the ducks and geese who lived in the pond/wetlands there and where they would go.  I’d like to think the ones I saw today are descendants who have come back.

We replied:

Thank you very much for sharing this, Sharon! 

It’s wonderful how this has brought you happiness, which would not have been possible if so many of us had not pulled together to save the Garden City Lands from dense development.

And Sharon wrote again:

When the Garden City Lands Coalition first started, I didn’t think there was much hope to save the lands from the almighty dollar.  But thanks to perseverance and faith, we can still see the mountains and provide a home for those wonderful birds.   Thank you again.

Garden City Conservation Society and the ALR

October 17, 2017

Introduction: One facet of the Garden City Conservation Society is conservation of ALR land. This recent article recaps that story. Click on the graphic for a large version, which shows the Garden City Conservation Society at Richmond Harvest Fest 2017.

The Garden City Conservation Society embodies a Richmond movement to respect and conserve ALR land for ALR uses: agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness.

In the late 1980s, as the Save Richmond Farmland Society, the movement battled to save Terra Nova, farmland in the northwest corner of Lulu Island. The results include Terra Nova Natural Area and Rural Park, along with the Sharing Farm.

A decade ago, the movement evolved into the Garden City Lands Coalition. With great support from the people of Richmond and beyond, we helped save the Garden City Lands. (At the time, it was a huge federal field of ALR in the Richmond City Centre, with most of it slated for dense development.)

It was also a chosen battlefield for ALR opponents, and its fall would have been a major setback for the ALR in BC. Thanks to the highly effective citizen action, the ALR won, enabling the City to buy the Lands as ALR park.

Our ongoing action has included immense efforts in 2014 that helped limit the harm from the “bill to kill the ALR.”

In our recent return to the Garden City Lands for Richmond Harvest Fest, we carried on the tradition.


If you are supportive, you’re a “Friend of Garden City,” and there’s a free newsletter, the Garden City e-News, via email about once a month. You can subscribe to the Garden City e-News here. (It is very simple to unsubscribe whenever you want, and your email address is never used for anything else.)


This article is essentially an excerpt from a recent letter to Lana Popham, BC Minister of Agriculture, from the Garden City Conservation Society with regard to the epidemic of mansions that broke out on ALR land in Richmond this year.

How “the developers” got their way in spite of Day

August 1, 2017

Ever wonder how “the developers”* get their way with Richmond? Is it that council members are developers at heart or beholden to developer money that gets them elected?

Maybe not. Maybe we simply have clever developers.

Let’s look at an example, the recent public hearing about a house-building bylaw update. A key intent was to ensure sufficient backyard space.

That could let living things thrive—even sturdy trees and birds that are happy with them. Also, it might let neighbours see more sky, not a towering wall that blocks the sunlight and feels like prison with no parole.

The good news is that city staff who deal with house building are adept at consultation. Staff had met with builders about the bylaw revision and also analyzed input from almost 800 citizens.

Despite the usual pressure from developers, staff had kept their balance and brought promising changes to council’s planning committee.

However, that committee has been stacked in the developers’ favour for months, ever since Mayor Malcolm Brodie deleted Coun. Carol Day from it and inserted Coun. Alexa Loo.

When the developers presented the committee with their preferred regulations to replace the staff advice, everyone except Councillors Harold Steves and Chak Au voted for the developer wish list.

But the decision had to face the full council in the next stage. After a hard-fought battle, the consultation-based staff proposals got restored. They were then brought to the public hearing, the final stage.

It slipped out at the hearing that the developers’ shrewd young leader had met with a core group of allies to plan how to get what they wanted.

They’d settled on phrases to keep repeating while aiming to reduce the depth for backyards on most lots to 20 percent of lot depth (from 25 percent, which is one-quarter more). The trick was to make the intrusion into the backyard just a single storey and to show it at low height at the public hearing.

They introduced it after most citizens had spoken, so the developers dominated near the end. Their key phrases, along with visuals, framed the change as a small design preference, enabling a modest “rental unit.”

But past performance is the best predictor of future performance. In that reality, the single storey would likely be 5 metres high (plus roof), as tall as older two-storey houses.

It’s a trophy-house design preference, not oriented to affordable housing or neighbours’ sunshine.

The astute Niti Sharma exposed some of that, but other citizens who could have debunked the developers had already spoken.

At the end, people were allowed to speak again—supposedly for three minutes with strictly new content. The developers’ leader got away with speaking last for ten minutes, hammering home the previous key phrases.

Final result: Only Councillor Day held her ground. Despite her vote, the developers largely got their way.

*A footnote: “The developers” is the usual label, but some in the industry are admirably different.

Welcome to 2017 gathering—June 21st

June 7, 2017

Update after the event: Here’s a video of a few of the Annual Gathering participants doing Aztec dance.

Dear Friends of Garden City,

Join in our 2017 Annual Gathering on Wednesday, June 21, at the Richmond United Church hall. Our theme is celebration.

As our June 21st date coincides with the solstice, it’s a perfect chance to honour the earth—and to celebrate all who protect her.

And let’s dance together! A bit of dancer-friendly Aztec Dance will enable us to experience conservation in an ancient way.

Note: At left, Sharon MacGougan is dressed for Aztec dancing and holding a conch for it.

But taking part as a dancer is optional. In the circle, all will share in experience of the present that connects with past and future.

Along with celebrating past achievements, we will look ahead to future ones, celebrating the possibilities with a wishing tree.

Art teacher Suzanna Wright (left) will facilitate that with the help of her instant-art skills.

Suzanna will also be greeting you at the sign-in table, and you can pick up her Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets there. (Learn about them here.)

The event also serves briefly as the annual general meeting of the Garden City Conservation Society.

It’s free—no charge except the $10 annual fee for membership in the society. Looking forward to seeing you!

Let us know right away that you’re coming—or thinking about coming. Our Sign-Up Form allows for shades of maybe. Like us, it is unique and has worked well for years.

Let’s celebrate together!
Sharon MacGougan
President, Garden City Conservation Society, and Aztec Dancer



Please respond:
Visit the Sign-Up Form now to express interest in the gathering and/or to enjoy the unique sign-up approach.

Timetable for Annual Gathering on Wednesday, June 21, 2017:
6:30 pm on: Sign-in, chat and snack (wraps, local strawberries, beverages, etc.
7:00 pm: Start on time.
8:30 pm: Celebration cake and time to chat.
8:45 pm: Clean-up.
9:00 pm: Bye!

Snack: Deliciously healthy finger-food and coffee/tea/juice from 6:30 pm. Delicious cake at 8:30. It can even serve as a light dinner if need be.

Membership in Garden City Conservation Society (to 2018 AGM):
Join/renew, $10 (cash or cheque), at the sign-in table or online (PayPal or credit card) if you support our purposes.* Donations welcome too.

Richmond United Church hall, 8711 Cambie, on the north side of Cambie Rd just west of Garden City Rd. Park in stalls marked B or C or unmarked. The hall entrance is near the northwest corner. Click the thumbnail at right for a larger image.

Aztec dancing: Click here to see Sharon MacGougan and her Aztec Dance team in action. In the 90-second video, they are dancing at a Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House cultural event earlier this year. Click the thumbnail at right for a larger image of the team.

* Purposes of the Garden City Conservation Society:

  • To help steward the natural legacy of Richmond’s Agricultural Land Reserve area called the Garden City Lands for agricultural, ecological and open-land park uses for community wellness.
  • To research, educate and act to help steward other natural legacies of the “Garden City,” Richmond, in consultation with government and community.
  • To encourage respect for the legacy name “Garden City” as a community value.

Richmond Tree Protection Bylaw Information Sessions

October 22, 2016

Gordon Jaggs. Tree Preservation Coordnator, Richmond, BC

Update, Dec. 30, 2016:The City of Richmond is holding well-received Info Sessions on the Tree Protection Bylaw.  The first three sessions all went well. Take part in one of the remaining ones. Just click on the Info Sessions on the Tree Protection Bylaw for dates, times and locations.

The “Tree Protection Bylaw Information Sessions” are led by Gordon Jaggs (left), Richmond’s Tree Preservation Coordinator.

The evening are well attended, and participants have had plenty of good things to say about them.

The basic purpose of each of the Tree Protection sessions is to outline how trees are assessed for both retention and removal.  The format allows plenty about half the time for questions and comments.

Some of the other topics that come up:

  • The Parks Department street tree program
  • Innovative measures used during development to retain mature trees
  • Other tree retention projects

Sharon MacGougan, President, Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond, BCA note from Sharon MacGougan:

Garden City Conservation has been working with Save Richmond Trees, a group concerned about the significant loss of mature trees from neighbourhoods. I have made Garden City Conservation Society recommendations to council about this, and Cindy Lee and others have come up with Tree Group Strategies.

The information sessions are an opportunity to learn and have our concerns heard. Please consider attending one of the sessions to speak for trees.

Sharon MacGougan
President, Garden City Conservation Society

Learning from wildlife in the Lulu Island Bog

July 27, 2016

“Friends in the Lulu Island Bog”—butterfly, vole and killdeer with bog blueberry and peat moss. Suzanna Wright art, courtesy of the Garden City Conservation Society.

Note: To download Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets and coloured artwork, see “Colouring the Lulu Island Bog,” the article below this one.

The Lulu Island Bog is a treasure of biodiversity. For conserving the Garden City, it’s a natural place to start.

Ready for an armchair tour? Let’s look at the “Friends in the Lulu Island Bog” tableau, a cartoon that stars a small mammal, a bird and an insect.

The setting is a series of four large peat-bog remnants north of Westminster Highway. They stretch from Jacombs Road to Garden City Road.

At lower left in the tableau, a vole pops up for a peak. It better be quick, since one usually sees voles on the bog as bones in coyote scat. And raptors strike fast too.

A local vole like ours got its colour photo in a wonderful book about the Lulu Island Bog. The book details the findings of a study that—among other methods—trapped, recorded and released small mammals unharmed.

Both book and study are called “A Biophysical Inventory and Evaluation of the Lulu Island Bog.” The Richmond Nature Park Society published the book in 2008.

At 356 pages, it is thorough and fascinating. You can pick it up for only $20 at the Richmond Nature House. While you’re there, enjoy the exhibits and Nature Park trails.

If you love a challenge like spotting a vole in its habitat, go to the Richmond Nature Study Area at the east end of the bog. Enter from Jacombs Road near the corner with Westminster Highway. The inventory study found many voles there in dense salal.

The butterfly in “Friends of the Lulu Island Bog” is a western tiger swallowtail. The study found lots of them along Shell Road, between the Nature Park and the Department of Natonal Defence (DND) Lands.

The cheerful bird is a killdeer, or ring-necked plover. Killdeers have often nested in the gravel of the main Garden City Lands entrance from Garden City Road at the west end of the bog.

Near the killdeer in the tableau, you’ll notice bog blueberries, which First Nations people and settlers used to gather. The bushes are short. Bog blueberry thrives on the Lands because the city mows the area annually, which limits taller invasive plants.

Peat moss (sphagnum) is the keystone species of the bog ecosystem. It flourishes best in the DND Lands. We need the federal government to keep protecting that area.

Colouring the Lulu Island Bog

July 10, 2016

As my Digging Deep column in the July 13th Richmond News says, you can download Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets from this blog. Here they are, along with examples coloured by the artist:


And here’s the column, “A timeless story of the Lulu Island Bog.”

The lively tableau below depicts native pollinators with native plants in the Lulu Island Bog.

The native birds and insects were here long before Europeans brought honeybees to North America. In recent years, a disorder that wiped out many honeybee colonies was a stark reminder of the need to conserve robust native diversity.


At top left in the tableau, with the Pacific crabapple blossoms, there’s a rufous hummingbird. It weighs only a few grams, yet it migrates north from Mexico in spring and south again in the fall.

On the right, feeding from a fireweed flower, there’s an Anna’s hummingbird. It’s so hardy that it lives here all year round.

The bumblebee in the middle is gathering nectar from a bog laurel flower.

At bottom left, a painted lady is flying above the peat moss—sphagnum moss, the keystone species. This kind of butterfly likes rain, but it migrates to warmer climes when the weather gets cool.

Also at bottom, a blue orchard bee is almost hidden among the bog cranberries. Naturally, blue orchard bees are good at pollinating fruit flowers.

By the way, all the native plants in the tableau except the bog laurel have traditional uses for food, warmth, health care, etc. One never knows when a further value will emerge, but for now the bog laurel is pretty, and the bumblebee likes it.

The Lulu Island Bog extends from Westminster Highway north to Alderbridge Way and from Garden City Road east to Jacombs Road. It’s two square kilometres of remnants of peat bogs that once covered almost half of Lulu Island.

The Lulu Island Bog is also called the Central Wetlands. That’s fitting, since the peat bog keeps losing ground to “succession,” evolving to bog forest and fen, which is wetland without the peat moss, bog shrubs and acidic water of bogs.

The decline of the bog ecosystem makes the surviving peat bog more precious—worth restoring and enhancing. Besides conserving natural legacies, the Lulu Island Bog has an interpretive centre, the Nature House, in the Richmond Nature Park.

Each April, there’s a “Hummingbird Homecoming” event in the park. In summer, the fen in the southeast corner of the wetlands (beside Garden City Road) is abuzz with native bees.

People picked up hundreds of Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets like the pollinator one from the Garden City Conservation booth at the Salmon Festival. As well, you can download them from the top of this article.

Tableaus condense natural scenes, and this one uses cartoon style. Still, artist Suzanna Wright and ecology advisor Michael Wolfe, who are teachers, have kept it true to life.


Note: This blog has a related article,Pollinating in the Lulu Island Bog,” from a year ago.

Natural success with Sharon MacGougan

June 29, 2016

Sharon MacGougan, President, Garden City Conservation Society, Richmond, BCThe Garden City Conservation Society has a new president, Sharon MacGougan. This may make it easier for the City of Richmond to join with the community in conserving the Garden City, the ecosystem of Richmond.

I’ve come to appreciate Sharon as a colleague, especially in her role as vice president for the past two years. Let me introduce you.

A lifelong Richmond resident, Sharon takes special interest in trees and their various benefits. For instance, their branches enable homes for songbirds, and their root systems are typically teaming with life. Sharon is always sharing insights on topics like that on Facebook at Save Richmond Trees and Garden City Conservation.

Thanks to trees, Richmond’s neighbourhoods have been vibrant natural networks, but moonscaping by developers keeps wiping them out. Yet the City has an impressive Ecological Network Management Strategy. Sharon likes to work with City staff and citizens to make the published strategy the living reality.

In other words, Sharon bucks the trend in order to help the Garden City ecosystem to survive and thrive—to help restore the natural value that’s being wasted. That’s what I’ve seen in action.

Unlike the previous president, me, Sharon is petite and soft-spoken. At the same time, she is expert in White Crane Kung Fu, which she has taught for many years.

Of course, conservationists value diversity, and Sharon is diverse. For instance, she’s a retired band teacher who wrote manuals for music teachers, and her fiction writing includes a novel, The Mayan Mysteries.

That title hints at Sharon’s immersion in Mexico, where she has visited many Mayan sacred sites, become an Aztec dancer, and grown in her lifelong gratitude for the natural world.

Sharon has ongoing involvement with Amnesty International, with a focus on indigenous issues. She is a former chair of Amnesty International Canada. And she has remained a habitually happy person.

As the new Garden City Conservation president, Sharon leads a close-knit group of capable directors. Along with thousands of supporters over the past nine years, we happily give our best efforts to the Garden City community.

Often the community puts the City in a position to succeed, as with the Garden City Lands. These days, a great need is to succeed together in turning the tide for the Garden City ecosystem, along with respect for the legacy name “Garden City.”

Sharon MacGougan will lead well, and together we will succeed.


Notes: The past president, Jim Wright, is still a director. This article is also published in the Richmond News of 29 June 2016 as the Digging Deep columnNatural success, with our new president.”

Garden City Lands as a model for the world

June 10, 2016

Update, June 12: I eventually submitted—to Let’s Talk Richmond—this chart of input about the Garden City Lands as one of the world’s great central parks.

This post is a slightly filled-out version of a recent Digging Deep column in the Richmond News. To further fill this out, you will find a number of related articles by scrolling down, as well as the above chart (added on June 12, 2016).



Background for the Let’s Talk Richmond feedback form for the Garden City Lands project.

The City of Richmond project to enhance the Garden City Lands is gaining momentum, so it’s time for a shared challenge. Let’s bring the Lands, our central park, to the top echelon of the world’s parks.

The community has always wanted to help steward the Lands with ALR values for agriculture, ecological conservation and open-land park recreation for community wellness. The land has stayed ready too.

satellite image of Garden City Lands, with darkness showing wetnessIt hasn’t been altered yet. It’s now best not to build dike-road trails this year, and that’s lucky.

To illustrate, the satellite photo at right is old but looks current. If you’re new to this, the Lands are the large field bordered by Westminster Hwy (south edge), Garden City Rd (west), Alderbridge Way (north), and No. 4 Rd (east). Each stretch of arterial road is about half a mile long (800 metres).


(re  Let’s Talk Richmond feedback form)

In this window of opportunity, what will it take to succeed?

  1. Focus on the goal of an ALR central park that celebrates the ALR.
  2. Ensure full benefit from the Garden City Conservation Society, with its insight and commitment. It exists to help like this. Consult them.
  3. Ensure accessibility. Design the infrastructure—such as dike-road trails—for wheelchairs, mobility walkers and strollers.
  4. Ensure ample capacity. That means, for example, wide-enough trails for the highest anticipated use, looking far ahead. It might also mean a long and narrow parking area on the Lands beside No. 4 Road.
  5. Be radically inclusive. Take the perspectives of people living with poverty, social anxiety, security concerns when near woods, need for nearby washrooms, etc. (Helpful action will tend to benefit all users.)
  6. hugelkulturEncourage all sorts of agriculture. For example, permaculturists might love to use hügelkultur to make a hard-to-irrigate part bounteous. Also, foresee how much land will be needed for community gardens in the future (10 ha, 25 acres?), and ensure that interim uses will improve the soil.
  7. Use dike-road trails around the restorable sphagnum bog on the east side to enable bog-specific steps. Save the southwest fen, a distinct and thriving ecosystem with native pollinators. Also consider a bird-oriented feature like the Terra Nova Natural Area.
  8. Act promptly toward a range of bog restoration methods, including those of Canadian peat moss associations and the Camosun Bog Restoration Group.
  9. On the north edge, re-establish a mixed urban forest by transplanting trees that would be lost with demolitions. Also honour the perseverance of the Lands’ pioneer trees—the truncated shore pines and crabapple trees.
  10. Protect the green viewscapes and salvage the lost ones. (A viewscape takes in everything from a viewing point all the way to distant features such as mountains.) As it is now, people get angry when they look north across Alderbridge at the destruction by construction.
  11. Make the Lands an exemplary hub in Richmond’s Ecological Network Management Strategy, an outstanding plan to put into action.
  12. Live up to our role as a model for the world. (IESCO, a UN affiliate, selected us as an International Eco-Safety Demonstrative City in 2010.)

Readers, this will be the heart of my feedback at Let’s Talk Richmond. Download the current Garden City Lands PDF there and see pages 4 and 11. Beat the feedback deadline, June 12.


Scroll down (past the Welcome) for several more articles on this topic.

Restore the GCL peat bog excellently

June 3, 2016

GCL-peat-bog-conservation-areaNote: There is overlap between this article and earlier ones (lower on the web page). Although there is a bit of repetition, the emphasis is different  in each article.

A recent update by the team for the Garden City Lands park enhancement project left me wondering if they intend to restore the sphagnum peat bog at all.

Project maps show the bog as more than half the park, as shown at right.

For certain, we don’t need the ecosystem to evolve to bog forest. In the big picture of City of Richmond parks, the Richmond Nature Park already fills that role.

I believe that the sphagnum peat bog restoration is vital. It should begin first, even before the central dike-road trail. It could even have begun when the city got title six years ago. The need was clear in 2009 when the city offered to buy the Lands, and any buyer would look ahead.

The update identifies project phases, and there’s no bog restoration phase. It’s not even in the future phases, years down the road. So far the city just does an annual cutback on the Lands, which does have net value. (But I wish they’d stop lopping the stunted pines, which are red-listed in association with sphagnum.)

When I talked to project team members at the project’s open house, they at least seemed to have restoration in mind in a warm and fuzzy way. A start.

In any case, it’s crucial to restore the keystone species—the sphagnum peat mosses. And systematic effort is required. In contrast, it seems now that the legacy bog could actually be harmed by other phases unless the bog restoration becomes more credible soon.

rerouting central dike-road trailIt’s also crucial to restore an area that’s actually peat bog. The best available info is from local expert Michael Wolfe (2011) and project consultant Terry Taylor (2013). The diagram at right gives a sense of where the central trail would best be placed.

Since the project is also trying to create a fen (in the SW area, the diagram also shows how the perimeter trail could be jogged to conserve an existing fen with a distinct ecosystem the project would mostly destroy.

Note: Michael Wolfe recommends a modified area that retains the unique ecosystem but best suits the pollinators that have chosen to make their home in that southwest corner.

What must the Lands project do now to succeed?

May 31, 2016

Received a request: Tell us bluntly what the Garden City Lands project must do now to succeed.

Okay, but first a review. We’ll use the sky view of the Lands. It shows where water settles in rainy season. (Darker is wetter.)

Central dike road trail

The graphic also draws on findings about vegetation patterns by local expert Michael Wolfe (2011) and consultant Terry Taylor (2013), which were similar.

The green lines represent the main routes for dike-road trails. Notice the curving green line, the central dike-road trail.

As dikes, the trails retain rainwater in the sphagnum bog restoration area on the No. 4 Road side. That’s a natural legacy.

The bog ecosystem needs a high water table, so it’s good the bog area is wet. There’s a drier area near the centre, but it surrounds a wet saucer of sphagnum moss, the best patch of that keystone species.

The graphic was made for a column in early 2014, after citizens used a late-2013 survey to demand that dike-road trails be built without delay.

The Taylor study was the biophysical inventory, an essential, but the funding was skimpy, and it shows. The project needed to fill it out with an inventory of soil and vegetation at a practical level of detail. Act now, I urged.

Ha-ha. Parks staff enlightened me, “We always take years and years.” So true.

This brings us back to the dike-road trails. With better guidance, they could be placed just right and built with little harm to nature. The aim is to start building them soon, so Garden City Conservation gave council an urgent report last week.


The report’s focus was on the central dike-road trail. In the project plan, the southern half of it drifts far to the west, bringing in many hectares that are beyond restoring as sphagnum bog ecosystem.

I’ve added the “PEAT BOG” label to what the City of Richmond’s project is showing as peat bog, with a whole lot in the southern half that is far along in ecosystem succession that it will never  function as a peat bog ecosystem again. It could be used well for other conservation or for agriculture, but not in the peat bog area.

Including all those extra hectares could defeat the purpose of the enclosed bog restoration area. It was to raise the water table with precipitation and keep it raised, enabling year-round water for native bog vegetation.

The problem is that invasive plants use up a lot of water and harm the water quality. (They harm the desirable acidity and add undesirable nutrients, e.g., by dropping birch leaves). To support the legacy ecosystem, we have to get rid of invaders, not welcome them. Anyone planning the central dike-road trail route should know that.

rerouting central dike-road trailIn contrast to what I’ve described in the City’s map, the central dike-reoad trail route I’ve drawn in at right follows what the project’s Biophysical Inventory consultant and Michael Wolfe imply to be the natural boundary for the southern half. 

It’s essentially what I showed on the satellite map early in this article but a little closer to being precise.

It is knowledge-based to the extent that is possible at this time.Unfortunately, the project has seemed more whim-based than knowledge-based.

What’s more, if hired experts are given whims as a starting point, their answers to the wrong questions are just a waste of money.

On the bright side, a May 30th project update has made use of community input. Also, we’ve come a long way from the days of 2008 when thousands of us had to fight to save the Lands from development, making the park possible.

Now we need the City of Richmond to whole-heartedly do what’s right.

Once again, Garden City Conservation urges results-oriented consultation with the goal of celebrating the ALR quality of the Lands. That could still lead to one of the world’s great parks.

At less cost. In less time. With joy.

Appeal to council for better GCL action

May 27, 2016

satellite image of Garden City Lands, with darkness showing wetnessGarden City Conservation recently sent the follow message about the Garden City Lands to Richmond council, especially the parks committee. The responsive have so far ranged from supportive to undermining.

For now, you will find it informative to go beyond the email to the attached letter from the Garden City Conservation Society.

Note: In the satellite image, darkness indicates wetness.

Mayor and Councillors, especially Parks Committee,

It would be a mistake beyond remedy to proceed with the construction of the dike-road trail infrastructure on the Garden City Lands at this time. The project continues to be whim-based, not knowledge-based, despite the expertise of the consultants who build on the non-foundation to the limited possible extent.

The most visible issue is the central dike-road trail route. It is crucial in itself, and we have focused on it in the attached letter because it is time-sensitive and manifests the underlying issues. They include gaps in basic knowledge that was scheduled to be gathered and analyzed in the first year of the project.

There is still tremendous potential for all-ALR use of the Lands that showcases the ALR’s benefits—along with Richmond ALR agri-eco legacies—for our community and the world. That’s what the community showed it wanted when the issue was front and centre in 2008, and it’s an aspect of what’s at risk.

Garden City Conservation retains the community vision along with current expertise—in service to the citizens of the Garden City and, for them, to the City. Please read the attached letter for community insight.

I will write more about the results as they become clearer.

Highly accessible trails vital for Lands

May 5, 2016

rerouting central dike-road trailMay 5th tour info. Richmond News version. For related survey tips, scroll down.

Update: We have added an illustrated explanation of the value of rerouting the central dike-road trail from the route that is shown in the City of Richmond’s April 2016 plan. For a larger version, click on the thumbnail image at right.

Looking north from the main (west) entrance to the Garden City Lands, we see a seasonal pond, a grassy raised area (about 100 metres by 400), some vehicles that are moving along Alderbridge Way, the treed environmentally sensitive area (ESA, already compromised on the west side by Walmart site preparation), and the Coast Mountains. The treed ESA and the scene of woods and mountains are mentioned in the third and fifth points in this article.

Richmond’s central park, the Garden City Lands, is coming along. The planning focus now is on the arterial trails: the dike-road trail system of central and perimeter trails. Last week there were wonderful open houses—thanks to staff, consultants and citizens. A survey is online at Let’s Talk Richmond till the end of Mother’s Day, May 8.

Of course, the park itself is thanks to the community of Richmond. Twice (2005 and 2008), we had to ask the Agricultural Land Commission to keep the Lands in the ALR. We showed that ALR uses of the Lands offer more community benefit than the non-ALR uses the City of Richmond and its developer partners wanted.

Now, long after the Commission sided with us, we see glimmers of ALR respect in the City’s planning, with less weaseling around the ALR status. If the City adopts our desire to celebrate the ALR, the Lands can still become one of the world’s great parks for community wellness. You can use the survey to encourage that.

Oddly, only the first question is about the dike-road trail system. It offers two options about cycling. I favor the option with bikes on an adjacent path. That simply separates bikes from the wheelchairs, service vehicles, joggers, etc., on the main path. A safer choice, it helps everyone to enjoy open-land park recreation, an ALR activity.

Luckily, the survey has a “General Comments” box. I’ll use it to urge meaningful park access via free-flowing arteries for the lifeblood—us—in all seasons. I may add that opportunities to interact with agriculture, ecological conservation and related recreation around the Lands are as vital as clog-free paths.

As an example, my photo shows the Lands from the Garden City Road entrance in 2012, when a pond formed, like ponds in the plan. Now imagine you’re there in 2018. A sign tells your future self that the pond stores water for crops, and a dike-road trail keeps your feet dry as you commune with the ducks in the agri-eco-rec milieu.

For more now, come to the Garden City Lands eco-tour from the No. 4 Road entrance on Thursday, May 5 at 7 p.m. Besides tour guide Michael Wolfe, biologist Mike Coulthard of Diamond Head Consulting will take part. It’s priceless and free. Details at

Since it’s spring, you may find it easy to get around, but you’ll also sense why a free-flowing all-season trail system matters. A crucial aspect is sufficient width for people to choose their pace—and pause to chat or find a nearby spot for tai chi. We need a main-path width of at least 5 metres, plus a metre-wide shoulder on each side.

The Let’s Talk Richmond survey is tricky, but my blog tips will help. (To reach them, scroll down.) I hope you’ll support year-round accessibility for Garden City Lands fans of all mobility modes, ages, security concerns, washroom needs—you name it. In any case, all informed input is good. See you Thursday!

“Child of the Fraser River and the sea”

February 17, 2016

Thomas Kidd of Richmond, 1846-1930One way to respect our Garden City legacy is through a settler leader who strove to make things better for those to follow. That’s farmer poet Thomas Kidd. In today’s terms, he was also a Richmond MLA, mayor, councillor, school trustee and good neighbour. We learn from him through his History of Lulu Island and poetry.

Thomas Kidd was born in Ireland in 1846. He arrived here in 1874 after living in New Zealand and California. Lulu Island, he found, was the fairest of all.

In his ode to Lulu Island, Kidd speaks to her as “Child of the Fraser River and the sea.”

"Lulu Island" first stanza

Where-is-RichmondThe name captures the nature of Lulu and her smaller siblings, the 17-island Garden City.

In that aspect of who we are, we exist through the interplay of the tidal sea and the flowing river bearing silt and seed. Always, we depend on their relationship.

Kidd, who built sturdy skiffs from local cedar to row from place to place, knew the Garden City’s life-giving estuary well. These days, it’s at risk, coveted for an outsize port.

In B.C. Ministry of Environment words, “Estuaries, formed where rivers enter the ocean and fresh water mixes with the saltwater environment, are among the most productive ecosystems on earth.” Our estuary is vital for the Fraser, the greatest salmon river. Fortunately, Kidd’s respect for nature’s legacy is not dead.

Otto and Sandra 2015.pages

It lives on in people like Sandra Bourque and Otto Langer, a couple who met while doing master’s degrees in zoology in Alberta. They’ve championed the estuary and its child since arriving in Metro Vancouver in 1969 and making Richmond home in ’72. They care about impact, not fame, but you deserve to know about them.

Otto got results as a federal biologist and manager for 32 years and then with the David Suzuki Foundation. After retiring a decade ago, he remained immersed in conservation of the Fraser, sharing his expertise. Otto currently chairs VAPOR, standing up for the estuary.

Sandra was an ecological voice on school board for 18 years. Always, she’s a doer who gets things done.

Garry PointAn example: In 1978, Sandra and others went to court to stop a residential development on Garry Point. To help pay court costs, Sandra and Otto took out a loan with their home as collateral. They lost, appealed and won. Public support grew, and we all got Garry Point Park.

This New Year’s, Otto had a massive heart attack. After multi-bypass surgery, his heart stopped six more times in six days, but he’s on the mend.

Poetic justice in a note from Otto: “While Sandra worked to save Terra Nova farmland and Gary Point, I attended to our first child. That child became a cardiac nurse. Lately she helped save my life.”


Please scroll down for three more articles with the inspiring environmental story of Sandra Bourque and Otto Lang and the Garden City, Richmond, B.C.

In the meantime, you can read my guide to “Lulu Island.” Or read related articles and Thomas Kidd’s poems in the Thomas Kidd section of this blog.

This article also appears as a column in the Richmond News of Feb. 17, 2015.

Sandra Bourque I, Garry Point

February 17, 2016

Otto Langer and Sandra Bourque on the sand

This is first of three Sandra Bourque answers to questions prompted by Sandra’s help with the “Child of the Fraser River and the sea” article on this blog. On request, Sandra Bourque and her husband Otto Langer also dug up some photos for illustration.

Jim, you asked Otto and me about how citizens saved Garry Point. This will be a longer answer than you had in mind, but Im enjoying the walk down memory lane.

First, Otto reminded me that Garry Point was mostly my cause, not his. But he supported me, and we did take out a loan against our joint mortgage to put towards costs of the initial court case.

Several of us Richmond activists agreed to put our names on the charge (Bourque et al., 1978) that the city had met with the Garry Point developer after the public hearing for the proposed development had closed—and they had thus invalidated the proper process. We were all prepared to have to pay for the court costs if we lost. And for Otto and me, that would have meant remortgaging our house.

Bill Sigurgeirson provided free legal services for the initial proceeding, which we lost. Murray Rankin’s firm provided help for the appeal, which we won.

Basically the legal proceeding effectively stalled the city’s ability to approve the development and allowed those opposed to build the case against it in the public’s mind.

Over the next few elections (every two years back then), we were successful in electing some new councillors—Sigurgeirson, Greg Halsey-Brandt and Corisande Percival-Smith come to mind—who opposed the development, thus shifting the balance. Ultimately a city council agreed to purchase the area for a public park.

Once we had Garry Point secured for park, there were disagreements as to what kind of park should be developed. Harold Steves, Don Cummings and Evelena Vaupotic sat on the Parks Board committee, and so did I as School Board Rep since half the city’s parkland belonged to the Board. I pushed for a more natural sandy park with beaches, logs and natural plantings at most.

Luckily, my fellow school trustees and a majority of councillors agreed. Trustees felt that we had grown up with places where there were natural areas to hang out in, have campfires, dig and hide in the bushes—wild places where no one would complain about broken branches, picked flowers or trampling. The sand piles of Garry Point had been that for Richmond kids. We won, and so far no marina and green grass.

Bourque II, Otto and Sandra and the activists

February 17, 2016

Sandra Bourque and Otto Langer and rushing water

This is second of three Sandra Bourque answers to questions prompted by Sandra’s help with the “Child of the Fraser River and the sea” article on this blog. On request, Sandra Bourque and her husband Otto Langer also dug up some photos for illustration.

Jim, you asked me how Otto and I got started as activists here.

Otto’s passion in the estuary and river arose first out of his job with Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It was informed by his upbringing on a farm at the edge of the northern boreal forest in Alberta and his love of the sheer beauty of BC. He ultimately was head of habitat protection for the Fraser River, it’s entire watershed and the Yukon. He lived at the mouth of the river too and he knew it like the back of his hand.

When we first came to BC in 1969, each development, riprap, dump, sewer outfall, industrial outfall, and gravel pit was considered on its own merit, if it was considered at all. There was no acceptance of the cumulative effect of all this on the salmon fishery or on migratory birds, which were actually protected in legislation, never mind the wider environmental and health implications.

At the start, Otto often found it difficult to get his bosses to agree to acting on obvious transgressions or advocating for changes to legislation, development or farming practices. Their emphasis had been on stock management, so habitat and pollution were “new fangled.” But Otto knew there was a small but growing network of people who saw the need for change and were willing to advocate for it, both within government and without. He worked with this network, sharing his knowledge base of biology, the environment, upcoming or ongoing threats, and the legislation. He was able to keep the pieces of the problems in his mind and help us all keep in mind the big picture we were working toward.

Informed by Otto like that, our network of citizens became knowledgeable advocates. We wrote cogent reports, made presentations at every political level, and advocated for ourselves, our children and our environment. Armed with knowledge and facts, supported by others, we marched into city halls and provincial offices and insinuated ourselves into what had been previously rubber stamping events in unquestioning support of development and industry. We demanded standards and processes that were open and public, adherence to the law, and changes to the law to better protect ourselves and the environment.

In Richmond at the start, that network included Lois Boyce, Wil Paulik, Janet Clark and members of the Richmond Anti Pollution Association, Deril Gudlaugson and his farmland protection group, and Harold Steves, along with me. I have a master’s in Zoology like Otto—we were students together at U of Alberta. Since my gender did not favour employment in the field of biology except as a lab tech, I put my efforts and abilities toward effecting by public advocacy what Otto could not change within government.

In Richmond this started by me attending a meeting at the Lorenzes about a proposed development on Shady Island. I took notes. When no one else would, I volunteered to make a presentation for the group to council. Mayor Gil Blair gave the developer 20 minutes and then told me to sit down after two minutes. I refused based on an principle of equal access and was able to answer every question asked. We won the day, and the environmental partnership of Otto and me began in earnest.

Bourque III, environmentalists in earnest

February 17, 2016

Sandra Bourque and Otto Langer and viewscape

This is third of three Sandra Bourque answers to questions prompted by Sandra’s help with the “Child of the Fraser River and the sea” article on this blog. On request, Sandra Bourque and her husband Otto Langer also dug up some photos for illustration.

Jim, you asked me to fill out a comment in my message about Otto, “We won the day [to protect Shady Island], and the environmental partnership of Otto and me began in earnest.” Here goes!

Collectively in the same manner, we worked on issues such as these:

  • Getting primary sewage treatment for Annacis and pushing for secondary or better sewage treatment
  • Protecting Sturgeon’s Bank from fill and development on what was then private land outside the dyke and eventually gaining protection for it in legislation
  • Stopping a development on Robert’s Bank
  • Recycling
  • Pre-treatment for industrial effluents
  • Containment and treatment of effluent from Richmond landfill (first citizen charges laid by Wil Paulik under Otto’s guidance)
  • Stopping a housing development in Ladner Marsh
  • With Fraser Coalition members from the GVRD, stopping wholesale dumping of concrete and other wastes along dykes and ditches.

These things that Otto and I worked on together and with others in the community were quite separate from all the things Otto did to protect the river and it’s marshes in his employment with Fisheries. Some examples of the latter in Richmond:

  • Pioneer bench compensation marshes along dykes on the Middle Arm near No. 2 Rd  and behind River Rock Casino, in the North Arm on Mitchell Island, on Annacis Island, and in the three marsh areas at Garry Point
  • Conversion of the Angus Lands dump along the North Arm into a park and valuable wetland
  • Protection of sloughs draining into the river, stopping wholesale treatment of ditches with toxic pesticides in the 1970s, and the spraying of sterilants at the airport
  • Constant work to have city councils and crews recognize the necessity of maintaining the 10 % of what is left of the once vast wetlands that supported the river’s wildlife and fisheries

Otto was instrumental in creating awareness by mapping all the lost streams of Vancouver and by creating a green, yellow, red mapping of Lower Mainland shorelines to simplify for citizens, staff and developers what was untouchable, what wasn’t and under what circumstances development could occur.

Finally I would be remiss in not mentioning the GVRD’s role in seeking to understand what was worthwhile in our area and promote it. In the early 1970s, they hosted a large public consultation process called The Livable Region. Otto and I attended, him as a rep of Fisheries, me as a rep for the West End Community Council and when we moved to Richmond for RAPA. This was a breeding ground for evolving lower Mainland environmentalism. Over two years, several committees considered different aspects of livability. Ours was the Environmental Review and Policy Committee composed of everything from professionals—biologists, engineers, psychologists—to interested citizens from around the Lower Mainland. It formed for many of us a statement of principles upon which to base our future actions as citizens.  And it was the start of a network of connections we would work with for the future. We still have several copies buried in our garage!

From News route to vibrant Garden City

January 6, 2016

In the community of Richmond, B.C., many want to revive and respect what we have long been, the Garden City. My “Digging Deep” column about delivering newspapers explored a crucial aspect I found to be alive and well.


Congratulations, subscribers! You came through with flying colours! I say that as the Richmond News carrier for a good number of you. I had to give up my newspaper route for a caregiving reason after half a year, but you’d proven yourselves by then.

As I brought the paper to 125 doors, I saw many of you. No one was ever unpleasant. Most exchanged greetings with me, engaging with warmth and respect.

Early on, one of you—working in a home office—popped out to receive the paper and offer me two $20 gift cards for fast food restaurants. You’d been given them and don’t eat there and thought I might like them or know someone who would. I did, thank you.

One hot day, you—an exuberant fellow slinging green bins of trimmings onto a recycling truck—kept up with me from house to house, with good-natured comments when our paths met. Then you fetched something from the cab and said “You need this more than me.” I’d just taken a break, so I gratefully declined the bottled water.

Another sunny afternoon, you—a young man and woman driving by—called out as you came to a stop. I’d delivered the News to your parents’ house earlier, and you liked my “Digging Deep” column and talked about follow-up action.

Soon after I resigned the route, some of you dropped in at the Richmond News office with a note of thanks and a $100 gift card. I bought Christmas dinner food with it so the family could share in your kindness.

One purpose for doing the route was to pass on income to good causes, and the money I’d saved on Christmas groceries enabled me to give $175 to the food bank. (After donation tax credits, the net outlay is about a hundred dollars.) Then I responded to you with my family’s homemade Christmas cards.

My route usually wound up at the Richmond Animal Hospital. You staff—mostly young women—always welcomed me with big smiles and thoughtful words. Each visit, you started me home with a booster shot of happiness.

All of that matters a lot to the newspaper carrier trying to get the job done well in any conditions at modest pay.

Garden City Conservation Society logo, Richmond, BCIt’s related to a stated goal of Garden City Conservation, respect for the legacy name “Garden City” as a community value. The garden of the concept is more than a green milieu buzzing with life. It needs people to steward it and make it homelike, with none too lowly to belong in it.

When I delivered your paper, you saw a senior who might have depended on it to make ends meet, and I felt at home with you. In that way, you helped us to be who we want to be, the Garden City.