Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Come by the Garden City Conservation booth at Harvest Fest!

September 28, 2017

Update: Harvest Fest was informative and fun. Congratulations to all involved.

Friends of Garden City, you’re all invited!

To what? The Garden City Conservation Society booth at Harvest Fest.

When? Saturday, September 30, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where? The Garden City Lands.

Where’s that? Main entrance on Garden City Rd, south of Lansdowne Rd.


Who’s leading it? Mainly two talented and generous teachers:

Mr. Michael Wolfe, a conservation biologist, knows and loves the ecology of the Garden City Lands. He has lively displays and answers to your questions.

Ms. Suzanna Wright welcomes kids of all ages to the colouring table, featuring her Lulu Island Bog line art. Colour it there or take the handouts with you.

Anyone else? Richmond Nature Park Society will share the booth. Other volunteers will join in. Richmond FarmWatch will be nearby.


Links? Learn more about Richmond Harvest Fest and the Lulu Island Bog colouring sheets, and download them and coloured versions.


Who deserves to celebrate? You do! We all do!

A few years ago, the community saved the Garden City Lands from dense development by the City of Richmond and two powerful partners:

  • We demanded that the Lands remain green as open-land park.
  • We became a grassroots tsunami, the Garden City Lands Coalition.
  • We persuaded the Agricultural Land Commission to leave the Lands in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) for community benefit.
  • Together, we won! Let’s celebrate on our Lands!

Celebrate success in spite of failure

May 24, 2017

Richmond’s new farmland bylaws put a limit on the largest mega-mansions, but they still batter our endangered ALR farmland.

That’s because council, obeying the farmland-owner lobby, set a farmland house-size limit that’s two to four times what it should be under the Ministry of Agriculture guidelines.

Their so-called compromise obliterates the ministry’s aims, such as minimizing any loss of ALR farmland to non-farmer residential use. If the Serengeti National Park compromised its 2,700 endangered elephants council-style, they’d end up shot.

If you’re pro-elephant or pro-farmland, it’s a less than pretty picture. As Richmond’s ALR legacy gets tossed aside, what can we still do?

Celebrate! Celebrate that Councillors Harold Steves and Carol Day did everything in their power to educate their colleagues. Celebrate that Harold, 80 years young, worked all night to prepare his final case for ALR values and shared it with vigor at the public hearing.

Celebrate the seven hundred citizens who took part in early consultation. Celebrate that three hundred citizens then got involved—with self-sacrifice for the common good—to put council in a position to not torpedo the ALR.

Celebrate how citizens mastered the issue to simplify all aspects for council members who have difficulty with reading or finding time for it.

For example, John Roston used graphics to unmask the fallacy that people with the occupation of farmer should always be treated like farmers. John would say that a farmer who is also a surgeon should be treated like a surgeon when removing appendixes and like a farmer when milking cows.

The graphic shows that the new bylaws smile on farmers, and it’s fine they’ve been enabled to easily exceed the house-size limit for non-farmers. But the bylaws should not coddle farmers in their land-investor role, especially when they demand a sky-high house-size limit to inflate the selling price of their land.

Despite John’s input, the council members who fawn on landed farmer-investors clung to an imagined duty to assure their wealth. So we have a bylaw that allows huge farmland houses up to 1000 square metres, as specified by the head farmer-investor.

Skewed council thinking has persisted even though the farmer-investors revealed their perspective early on. One even said, “The elephant in the room is land value,” but some on council wouldn’t heed it if it sat on them.

In contrast, Richmond could have progressed toward protecting our battered farmland and the fragile status of newer lessee farmers—with livelihoods at the lessors’ whims. They are the future that an oblivious council squashes.

We’ve needed to mourn, but let’s get back to celebrating our citizens who made success possible (even though it got blocked). Let’s renew our focus, energy and resolve, and let’s keep up the thoughtfulness.

The trick is to start. Please take a moment to be one in spirit with our farmland lessees, voiceless but vital.

Opportunism & Ecological Network Management Strategy

September 21, 2015

ENMSThe City of Richmond’s Ecological Network Management Strategy continues to be largely well done. In this article, I’ve picked out some key points and commented on them. I drew on the content when talking to a council committee about the strategy today on behalf of the Garden City Conservation society.

Note: If you open the Ecological Network Management Strategy in a separate window, you can refer to it as you read this article. In the page numbers, the “GP” stands for “General Purpose Committees.”


Being opportunistic

I was pleased to notice that the Ecological Network Management Strategy states the importance of being opportunistic, which is a helpful reminder. In other words, turning the strategy into ecological reality means consistently making the connection between good ideas and effective action at each decision time, each opportunity.

The intent is a well-connected network “in which residents thrive” (GP-15). Along with the networking emphasis, the parts need to be ecologically effective for the connected parts to function.

Furthermore, the strategy can only work if the good ideas are put into effect at decision times. For instance, the segment of the Alderbridge Wildlife Corridor between No. 4 Road and Garden City Road that is nearing extinction is an example of the “Corridors and Connectivity” component. It would have been saved and enhanced, with immense net benefit at little cost, if the City had decided to keep it when the community called for that. (The six components are listed on GP-16.)


Consultation & Engagement

In “Consultation & Engagement” (GP-31), there are themes like these:

  • Strike a better balance between accommodating development and maintaining natural areas in the city.
  • Prevent habit fragmentation and loss from development activities. Emphasize preservation of native vegetation and wildlife corridors.
  • Keep natural areas in the city as they are and protect them from future growth and development.

In the example of the westernmost segment of the Alderbridge Wildlife Corridor in the recent past, all three themes were ignored. Consultation that is not heeded (as just shown) would merit a different heading: “Window Dressing.”


Traditional Neighbourhoods

Traditional Neighbourhoods Strategy Area (GP-56 & 57) identifies issues such as these:

  • Loss of vegetation
  • Increase in impermeable surfaces
  • Tree removal

The aim is implicitly to stop the losses and make things better. My concern is that this report was circulated to council members a month ago, and opportunities have come and gone. For example, council approved a zoning application in Item 1 of the September 8th public hearing without even a moment of discussion. That was even though an informed conservation biology teacher, Michael Wolfe, had pointed out that the application would cause a significant removal of trees, not just on the applicant’s property but on the neighbouring property.

When a house gets demolished to make way for a new one, the builder often moonscapes the whole lot. We’re led to believe that the purpose is to build up the site pad to a required elevation for flood protection. However, when I talked to city staff about the elevation requirement, I learned that the builder can accomplish it by simply constructing a higher foundation for the house. Apparently it costs more, but the ecological management point is that it reduces the loss of vegetation. In other words, it is constant opportunity to resolve one of the stated issues for the Traditional Neighbourhoods Strategy Area.

There is no mention of maximizing developers’ profits as an aim in this strategy. And a higher cost for building a replacement house does not even reduce the availability of affordable housing. After all, higher costs would make developers less likely to destroy the existing housing, which many of us perceive to be more likely to have lived-in rental suites than the new ones that destroy vegetation.


Central Wetlands

Central Wetlands Strategy Area (GP-62 & 63): For the Garden City Lands, a fundamental flaw is that the strategy fails to identify the issue of restoration of the sphagnum bog ecosystem—and does not even identify the ecosystem. It also fails to identify cooperation with the Department of National Defense to conserve and restore the sphagnum bog ecosystem there, and that is a huge lost opportunity to open the door to a unified Lulu Island Bog with federal-municipal collaboration.


West Dike and Sturgeon Bank

West Dike Strategy Area (GP-66 & 67) and Wildlife Management Areas (Sturgeon Bank): The two strategy areas beyond the West Dike exemplify how the City’s actual conduct is sometimes the opposite to the intent.

In the summer of 2013, five backhoes on the tidal wetland destroyed the extensive array of habitat logs beyond the West Dike, piling them into a “corral.” I was shocked when I came across it. It was not in the approved plan and not cleared with the parks committee or even mentioned to the chair. There was also no study to compare the ecological value of what was destroyed with the anticipated value from the intervention.

A salmonid habitat enhancement project that’s been successful in the last couple of years in the Seymour River estuary in North Vancouver has done the opposite, bringing logs into the area and tethering them so they remain functional, helping protect the fish from seals. A Vancouver Sun article last month (August 19, 2015) used the term “habitat complexity,” for the intent, which provides “plenty of tiny nooks and crannies for the plants and animals.” (See also the Province article of June 13, 2015).

It is certainly not obvious that the massive intervention in the ecosystem was wise. The one obvious course of action was to proceed with care after a thorough study of all conservation effects, with consultation and approvals, and that is precisely what did not happen.


It is clear that the most important piece of the Ecological Network Management Strategy is not within the document. It is a deep shared commitment to implement it. It’s up to council to add it.

Vincent Chiu, MP?

August 6, 2015

Vincent Chiu, MP candidate in Richmond CentreAlthough the Garden City Conservation Society does not endorse candidates, it’s great to see in Graeme Wood’s article that one of our informed young members has taken the step of running for parliament. Vincent Chiu, 18, has also been politically engaged at the local level, taking part in council meetings in a conservation-minded way.

Vincent may or may not be the best candidate for Member of Parliament in Richmond Centre, but he could be a breath of very fresh air as MP.

Be a Friend of Garden City and get the News

January 11, 2014

You qualify as a Friend of Garden City if you support the purposes of the Garden City Conservation Society:

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

In that case, you’re welcome to receive updates in the Garden City News, a free newsletter. To subscribe, simply send an email with the subject Subscribe.

Here’s a small example of a Garden City News page. If you click it, you’ll open the newsletter in PDF.

Sample Garden City News page

A few other facts about the newsletter and Friends of Garden City:

  • For maximum respect for personal information, we gather the least possible info (just email addresses)—and only for the one purpose of emailing the news.
  • The Garden City News is usually a page or two. (It’s never more than four.)
  • The newsletter is emailed an average of twice a month — occasionally more often in hectic times and always less often in tranquil times.
  • One can easily unsubscribe at any time.
  • One can think of it as a way of belonging to  Garden City Conservation.

There is also dues-paying membership in the Garden City Conservation Society for those who support the purposes and choose to contribute the $10 annual membership amount. Details here.

Reminder: Being a Friend who subscribes just takes an email with the subject Subscribe.

GMO OMG at SOS Eco-Centre, Nov 16–17, 2013

November 8, 2013

Arran StephensArran Stephens, co-chair of Richmond Food Security Society, invites you to GMO OMG, 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov.  16 & Sunday, Nov. 17 at the SOS Eco-Centre, 11011 Shell Road (southwest corner of Shell Rd & Steveston Hwy).

GMO OMG — Free ShowingGMO OMG is an acclaimed film that takes us on a journey of appreciation of nature, often through the eyes of the filmmaker’s young son. The journey includes farmers in Haiti burning Monsanto’s gmo seed and later visits the world seed repository in Norway.

As a step to informed choices, it questions effects of GMO technology and chemical agriculture. Click on the poster (thumbnail at right) for details.

Arran Stephens is also CEO/gardener of Nature’s Path Foods.

“If you have to vent, you can whine at the public hearing”

October 15, 2013

This was published in the Richmond Review on Oct. 10, 2013.

Background: A mega-developer wants to rezone 20 large single-residence lots for a Walmart mall. Almost all had ESA (environmentally sensitive area), including mixed urban forest along Alderbridge Way, across from the Garden City Lands.

The Walmart mall plan is not consistent with Richmond’s official community plan (OCP).  The problem has festered for years, but that doesn’t make it okay.

At Tuesday’s planning committee meeting, I explained why the proposal should not be shunted to public hearing before being fixed. Most of the other citizens who spoke made similar cases from a range of perspectives such as conservation, poverty and local business.

Despite all that, the proposal will go to a council rubber-stamping step next Tuesday and then to public hearing on Monday, Nov. 18 at 7 pm at Richmond City Hall.

I had expected more of our council members. They could, for instance, have been ready to turn down the Walmart developer if it wouldn’t treat its City Centre neighbours to the south as well as it treated Polygon, its developer neighbour to the north.

With the radical redesign Polygon demanded two years ago, the mall’s north side will now improve from ugly to pleasing. That’s great for Polygon’s profits and good for nearby residents.

Polygon’s request was actually fair, since the Walmart store is vastly larger than the OCP allows in the Alexandra Neighbourhood. An exception can be made for “high quality urban form,” enhancement of the surrounding area, which may in fact occur on the Polygon side.

Unfortunately, the effect of the Walmart mall on the Garden City Lands area from the Walmart mall south is abysmal “urban form,” but residents there and all of us who value our central park don’t have anyone to enforce the OCP.

As mere citizens we’re told, in effect: “Tough luck. If you have to vent, you can whine at the public hearing.”

That’s one problem. It’s compounded by other ways the OCP and public are not being heeded.

A meaning of stewarding our central park

October 4, 2013

This was published in the Richmond Review on Oct. 4, 2013.


Reminder: A Walmart mall that spoils nature’s art will soon be Richmond’s signature architecture—unless it’s scaled back behind restored forest. As part of the Garden City Lands area, our central park and City Centre would be devalued most.

Effect: The people in that area will be hardest hit. And we know from a census-based map it’s the largest low-income area in Metro Vancouver.

(That’s based on the median, the mid-point of the household incomes, and our City Centre has high-income households too. Still, it’s in the bottom tier.)

In this I’m thinking of those whose income depends on a fast-food outlet that’s closing and the mom who sleeps on the floor so the kids can have the bed. Thanks to Richmond Poverty Response, I know of them, persons behind the stats.

The social equalizer should be our parkland. It fills out one’s housing space, like a longer living room or patio. In that mindset, the Garden City Lands, our central park, are a garden for community wellness, which the city aptly describes as social, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Reality check: From the Garden City Lands, let’s look north again, this time to the mall neighbourhood, Alexandra (City Centre in all but name). Council cancelled Alexandra’s park last year. With a footbridge to cross Alderbridge Way, the lands will do, they said. But the bridge doesn’t exist.

Recently, when staff brought the Walmart mall plan back to council, most of Alexandra’s greenway had vanished too. The lands will do, they said.

But the city’s new 10-year park plan, which sounds terrific in some ways, leaves out the Garden City Lands. It seems our central park will be enhanced no sooner than 2023.

No wonder the city felt free to set back the park planning with its May 2013 ad blitz to frame the lands as a blank canvas, blanking out priceless legacies, natural treasures and ALR status. Missteps like that ensure non-progress and squandered value, despite project staff that do their best.

Again, the loss hits the least privileged most. They may live near the Garden City Lands, but there are no trails there for them, let alone the all-weather access that people want.

Fortunately, the project team now has aims for the Garden City Lands that fit with the community’s goal: to steward that central park in the ALR for agriculture, conservation and open-land-park recreation, all for community wellness. Many benefits!

To illustrate that, the Garden City Lands Coalition came up with a concept map years ago. It shows the givens and near-givens, starting with a satellite image of the lands. The only trails shown are farm roads (in green) that also serve hydrology needs, but I’ll fill out the picture to describe all-weather access.

Off Garden City Road, the new park entrance would extend Lansdowne Road. From the “multi-purpose area,” there’d be a trail link to the ecology dyke trails. (No spot for it is shown yet because the concept map shows only what the lands—via nature, legal status and council—tell the alert observer.)

Farm-road trails can have a wide surface, and it could suit all-weather cycling and rolling, even for wheelchairs, as well as walking and running.

Incidentally, the ample space shown for conservation (60%) is Coun. Harold Steves’ idea, a starting point. Also, people want ponds, with recreational uses among ALR ones.

Back on topic, let’s hope our central park approach will put less-privileged park users first. We’ll be stewarding one of the world’s great parks, not to show off but to share.

Turn down the pH in here!

November 3, 2012

What the bog says to the sphagnum moss every day.

Turn down the pH in here!

From the Art and Observations blog, courtesy of Suzanna Wright.