Archive for the ‘Visions for the Lands’ Category

The harmony of the Lands

November 28, 2011
A 2012 wish for Richmond & the Garden City Lands 

The story of the Garden City Lands has included some harmony and can include very much more now.  At this time, with the Richmond council and the Richmond community in unprecedented agreement about respecting the legal status of the lands, we are entering a collaboratively creative stage. While there’s an inherent aspect of conflict in creativity, the effect can and should be harmonious.

If the planning process is handled well, the many kinds of notes will come together in harmony as a legacy “for our children’s children” and an inspiration for the world. Here’s how I envision a harmonious next stage from a citizens-as-stakeholders perspective:

Inclusive park planning
with a clear & fitting goal

such as open-land parkland
that embodies our island story
& our hope for our city centre
& whole community,

with informed city staff & council
drawing on experts of every kind
& the best of Richmond
like the parkland at Terra Nova

& with close interaction
with city public—stakeholders—
for informed & coherent choice
to meet deep need in a blend of ways

that empower Nature to restore
our legacy from ages past
& capture the best of our hearts
in our legacy for time to come

& heed the zoning for ALR uses
for food, recreation & conservation
in the Eco-Safety Demonstrative City,
an honoured model for all the world,

enables notes from our many voices
to join in the song of a wellness park.

Anything to add, subtract or modify?

John ter Borg’s PARC insights

November 26, 2011

This guest post from John ter Borg was also published in the Richmond Review as “Preserving the Garden City Lands. . . .” It responds to the key article titledListening to the Lands = PARC.”

At first glance the Garden City lands PARC concept map looks simple, but upon deeper inspection it becomes clearer that important knowledge, ideas, and natural history have been captured.

As someone who has participated in the public eco-tours led by Michael Wolfe, I have been able to see firsthand the diversity of animal and plant species that make up the Garden City Lands.

It is clear to me that the concept map is a valuable tool that will allow the future potential of the lands to be communicated, and lead to the restoration of a naturally productive bog ecosystem. It is on these tours that I am always reminded of just how lucky we are to be able to access nature so close to home.

The lands which have never been farmed form a natural buffer between Richmond’s high density urban centre and the Richmond Nature Park to the east. These remnants of the vast bogs that once covered more than one-third of the island passively provide essential ecosystem services that contribute to the wellness of our community.

Conservation of this prime agricultural land has the net benefit of securing our future food needs, while at the same time providing abatement of noise and air pollution, climate regulation resulting from carbon storage in trees, plants and soils, habitat for pollinators, and helps to control runoff and absorb wastes.

Proceeding with a dyke-trail approach, including the perimeter dyke, would facilitate effective water management and encourage the development of a sustainable food systems park that could incorporate community farms and gardens, allow urban agriculture research, and opportunities for nature-based recreation.

A natural next step is for the City of Richmond to recognize and incorporate the Biophysical Inventory and Evaluation of the Lulu Island Bog report as a baseline for guiding further studies and for planning purposes.

A related article on this blog is “Getting PARC trails on the Lands soon.”

Getting PARC trails on the Lands soon

November 7, 2011

The all-weather dyke trails in the PARC concept for the Garden City Lands are popular, especially because there is a lot of impatience to be able to explore the lands. Trudging into deep growth and stepping into hidden streams isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, and people also rightfully want to avoid damaging the life on the lands that they aim to conserve.

The dyke trails are shown in darker green in the PARC concept map at left. (Note: It’s conceptual, not intended to be precise like a blueprint.)

Judging from questions, the PARC trails require more explanation. It will take a longish one because so many other factors are involved.

I agree with the intuitive public sense that some main trails need to be built early on to enable access. However, a lot of the analysis and planning that’s needed first has inexplicably not been done. As far as I can learn, it has not even been started. Skipping prudent steps in order to make up for the lack of action is not an option. However, identifying the needed steps is a good foundation for catching up by using an efficient process.

A key reason for extensive planning is that the dyke trails would all serve ecohydrology goals, with such water-management purposes as:

  • Irrigating and draining for agriculture and recreation
  • Controlling the supply of the contaminant-free and nutrient-free precipitation required for bog restoration
  • Maintaining optimal water levels for conservation (e.g, about 30 cm below the surface for restoring the bog ecosystem)
  • Assuring protected reservoirs of drinking water for emergencies
  • Enabling other selected purposes such as aquaculture, geothermal heating, and permaculture

It is common sense to make the hydrology dykes also serve as trails, with the effect that they will be wide and raised a little. That way they will be:

  • Usable year round for recreational use and service use (as access lanes for service vehicles)
  • Inviting for a range of users, including those who use wheelchairs and including both bicyclists and walkers (with enough trail width to enable safe use by all)
  • An intuitive message (complementing educational methods) to stay on the trails and off any sensitive bordering areas.

Like the dykes, an area roughly corresponding to what’s labeled “multi-purpose area” on the PARC concept map also needs to be worked on early, with an all-weather trail linking it to the ecology dyke trail to the east of it. It would be similar to the ecology dykes but isn’t shown on the PARC map yet because the optimal placement for hydrology value is not yet obvious.

Some examples of the studies that need to be done are:

  • Inventories/maps of all forms of life on the lands
  • Water table levels by location and time of year, and also deep water movement (probably like the northwestward movement under the DND lands but possibly not)
  • Land composition, e.g., via drilling for core samples (largely replacing the inadequate study that was done in the context of high-density construction on the lands)
  • Future needs for community gardens and community farms, especially for the city centre
  • Availability and suitability of potential community partners, including one or two principal partners such as an urban-agriculture education partner (e.g., Kwantlen Polytechnic University, since the city has involved Kwantlen in related efforts since early 2008)
  • Availability of suitable fill for the dyke trails and multi-purpose area
  • Need for the existing drainage system to be outside the dykes along Westminster Highway (where there’s a long ditch on the north side of the road) and Garden City Road (where there’s a series of often-clogged drains about 15 metres east of the road and closely spaced, typically 20–25 metres apart)

In my view, considerable initial investigation needs to be done by Richmond staff, hopefully in consultation with knowledgeable community people, just to determine the scope of the studies.  One example is that the city can use its own expertise and available outside expertise to determine the kinds of fill that may be available for constructing the dyke trails and what the PARC map calls the multi-purpose area. We actually checked on that in connection with including the dyke trails in the PARC concept, and the city could either start by talking to us or go about it some other way, but the point is that the initial investigation would be wide-ranging but can also be done efficiently by drawing on readily available collaboration.

Listening to the Lands = PARC

October 31, 2011

This post illustrates the concept of listening to the Garden City Lands in the context of legal reality and best available expertise. There have been many fascinating visions for the lands, and large aspects of most of them can fit with this “PARC concept.” This blog has tried to capture those visions in other posts, and you can access them from here (starting with the earliest at the bottom) and here. You can also download this post as 1-page PDFs: English text or Traditional Chinese text and bilingual PARC concept map.


When we look and listen, the Garden City Lands tell us what’s good for them.

In the graphic below, the underlying image is a satellite view in rainy season. Wetter areas look darker. Notice, for example, the light “clean clay fill” in the northwest corner and the darker—and wetter—lower-lying land south of it.

More subtly, several of the labeled areas convey the close-range view of Michael Wolfe, who knows and loves the ecology of the lands. He spent time with them this spring to map where he found native species, streams, and more (building on years of observation).

A few streams caught the satellite’s eye, but Michael located a hidden one with banks of abundant cloudberries and sphagnum. It’s east of the green “ecology dyke trails” label and parallel to it, easy to miss but well worth conserving.

Aspects like that are the lands’ way of showing us the “restorable sphagnum bog,” which can be saved with dyking that holds in the acidic bog water and lets precipitation raise the water table. Michael was recording Nature’s wishes when he drew a slanting and winding western border, which could be the future route of a dyke trail.

In the northeast, Michael found none of the living sphagnum moss that enables a sphagnum bog. Still, it remains a field of ancient peat. With the right planting method and water levels, that’s an ideal base for regenerating sphagnum. The city would witness the rebirth of a bog in its midst.

Although the bog ecosystem of the Garden City Lands is in critical shape, the published resources of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association prove there are Canadian experts who could help.

Also, the 2008 Lulu Island Bog book describes efforts to save bog remnants east of the Lands. We can learn from the scant success.

Leading-edge care is essential. Deep commitment will enable full recovery.


Agriculture expert Kent Mullinix says the higher land in the northwest is suited to orchard trees and farm animals, which would rather not stand in water. South of that, the soil is more organic. With drainage, it can become productive for growing.

The areas for agricultural education and community farms and gardens could be crisscrossed by trails to feed visitors’ interest while prompting respect for what others grow.

The Garden City Lands have cousins, the Terra Nova Rural Park and Natural Area far to the west, role models to imitate in adapted ways. Farming groups outgrowing the Terra Nova Sharing Farm in the rural park would make good early adopters of community farms on the lands, and Food Bank clients might be able to help grow their food on farms like that.

In time, the 120,000 residents projected for the city centre may require 25 acres for community gardeners on the lands. They’d grow culturally good food, chat with their garden neighbors and passers-by, and savor the settings of mountains and woods.

Around the west entrance, the most disturbed part of the lands is labeled “multi-purpose area.” Clean clay fill, which would be brought in for trail-bearing dykes, could also extend the existing firm ground. That would suit buildings like a multi-purpose community barn and farmgate market, along with a little parking.

In the southwest corner, nesting birds and native bees reminded Michael that the water conditions and vegetation there are just right for them. Bee expert Brian Campbell tells me that native bees are best for pollinating native plants. Some species don’t fly far from their nests, but they can be helped to find homes where their work is needed. For natural harmony, the “habitat” corner calls for distinct handling.

Those who listen to the Garden City Lands love to share the joy. They envision peaceful gathering places, tai chi beside reservoir lakes, theme playgrounds, lookouts, and lots of interpretive signs on all-weather trails for walking, cycling, and access.

By B.C. law this ALR land is agricultural, by nature it cries out for conservation, and as green wellness space in the city centre it’s vital for recreation. So the Garden City Lands can be a great “PARC,” which is more than a nod to bilingualism en francais. As PARC, they’re Parkland for Agriculture, Recreation, and Conservation.

The prospects are exciting. When we listen to the lands, enthusiasm is natural.

Where sports fields don’t and do belong

October 31, 2011

I once thought a space for soccer fields could co-exist with Agricultural Land Reserve uses on the Garden City Lands. I was wrong. It would be fatal.

Luckily, a window on the idea slid open in a televised council meeting after public outcry prompted council to correct the Metro mapping of the lands to comply with their protection in the ALR.

Two councillors talked about areas of grass sports fields. One divided the lands into 80 acres of bog and 56 acres of sports on trucked-in topsoil.

It was said that the sports area would produce food if the need arose. That’s not reaslistic. Otherwise, the lands would already be meeting food-growing needs such as community gardens for the city centre.

Since buying the lands was a large investment, surely there should at least be an expert plan for the best ALR uses by now, 18 months later.

Re sports fields, the context is that the city cut back on upkeep in local parks when youth soccer moved to artificial turf. Let’s start restoring local fields, including aids to runoff (e.g., 2.5% slope from the crown past the sides, with perimeter drains). Drainage would naturally be better than on the Garden City Lands, and community wellness would be better served too.

In any case, sports fields are not an ALR use. The Agricultural Land Commission can approve them for good reason, but there’s no honestly good reason for them on the lands.

Just as a scenario, pretend the commission swallows a lie. Wetland gets paved for parking and converted to grass fields, which are underused. By then the lands are no longer an agricultural unit, so they get excluded from the ALR more easily.

That story ends with artificial fields, giant sports structures, and parking lots. Our green legacy in the city centre dies.

Each passing day with no expert plan deepens the risks and losses. We’re losing the bog ecosystem, the option of an urban-agriculture partnership with Kwantlen University, food security, and more. For nothing.

What does our goal mean?

October 18, 2011

“Steward the Garden City Lands in the ALR for agriculture, recreation & conservation for community wellness.” That’s the caption on the front of the bookmark (shown above) that the Garden City Lands Coalition was happy to give to almost six hundred visitors to the World Food Day Celebration in the Richmond Public Library last Saturday. It expresses the goal of the citizens who strive to save the lands from non-ALR uses like big inappropriate buildings and for appropriate ALR uses.

While enjoying the World Food Day experience, I realized that a post that discusses the goal would be helpful for many of those good people, as well as for others who didn’t manage to be there. Here goes.

The Garden City Lands is a large green space in the City Centre area of Richmond. The size is usually stated as 136 acres. (A detail: Because of smaller parcels on the north, south, and west edges that aren’t usually counted, it is actually over 140 acres unless those parcels are left out of the park, an odd step.)

The ALR is the Agricultural Land Reserve, British Columbia’s land bank that provides legal protection for the province’s scarce fertile land. The Garden City Lands have always been in the ALR, and they were confirmed to belong in the ALR by decisions of the Agricultural Land Commission (the tribunal for ALR matters) in 2006 and 2009.

The founders of the ALR wisely tried to include all land that was suitable for agriculture, even if it might be best used for conservation and related kinds of open-land recreation. The whole range of uses is “ALR uses.”

It happens that the Garden City Lands is zoned as Agriculture by the City of Richmond as well as provincially (ALR). On Metro Vancouver’s “land use designation” map, the Garden City Lands are to be called “Conservation & Recreation.” The provincial zoning has precedence, so the Metro designation will not change anything. It just implies that the ALR uses of the lands will include emphases on conservation and open-land park recreation, along with agriculture.

It also happens that the appropriate uses for the Garden City Lands are a blend of agriculture, conservation, and recreation, and it can even be said that the entire lands are fully each of those things at the same time. I’ll leave that for another post, “Listening to the Lands = PARC.”

Since the Garden City Lands are a wonderful expanse of Richmond-owned parkland, the citizens of the local area (the City Centre, which needs parkland) and the whole community should benefit from them. The final word in our goal, wellness, means physical, mental, and social health, and community wellness is a goal of Richmond’s parks. For optimal community wellness from the parks system, it is important that the lands be used in their unique ALR ways that complement what the other parks (mostly non-ALR parks) can do for wellness.

There is one more word in the goal, the first one, Steward. The purpose of the ALR is not just to protect fertile land but also to encourage appropriate active use, and the Garden City Lands Coalition urges the whole community to take responsibility for that.

After all that explanation, I have a confession to make. The goal that the Garden City Lands Coalition has expressed on behalf of the community could actually be expressed simply as “Keep the lands in the ALR.” The rest is implicit. Furthermore, our goal is basically just a reflection of the legal reality that the Richmond-owned parkland called the Garden City Lands is in the ALR and has been strongly confirmed to belong there. We state the goal in more words than that because people find the longer version clearer.

Even though our goal is the legal reality, powerful parties have used every means at great expense to overcome that legal reality, and we know for certain that they have not given up. We work toward the goal without pay and at our own expense. Why? Because the Garden City Lands are a unique legacy from Richmond Past that we, the community, must somehow save and steward as a priceless legacy for today’s needs and “our children’s children” in Richmond Future.

Let’s end with the back of the bookmark (shown below) that we shared with visitors to the World Health Day Celebration. It shows a little of what we’re passionate about.

An amazing opportunity clarified

August 22, 2011

Sarah Jackson’s recent article about Kwantlen’s sustainable agriculture program in the Richmond News adds further insight to “An amazing opportunity to lead the world,” the post right below this one.

The News article’s informative content indicates that the program now expects to begin taking in students in the spring 2012 semester, instead of in fall 2011. From the standpoint of a possible partnership between the City of Richmond and Kwantlen Polytechnic University on part of the Garden City Lands, that is not a problem. Whether or not the partnership is the best option for the parties, it will be a shame if the opportunity slips away without the serious exploration that council identified long ago as worth pursuing. In that context, having a bit more time for it is a good thing.

What seems evident is that the city needs a capable agricultural partner with relevant expertise and the commitment to use it for community benefit. It has had that in the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project, a group that’s more impressive than its name, at the Sharing Farm at Terra Nova Rural Park. For the Garden City Lands, the tall order is for a community partner that will enable the same level of excellence on a larger scale in a central location that is under constant public scrutiny.

Kwantlen and its program director, Dr. Kent Mullinix, have established a high standard. Before it’s too late, I hope that the city will either negotiate a win-win agreement with Kwantlen or expeditiously come up with a better alternative.

An amazing opportunity to lead the world

August 15, 2011

Update: The Richmond Review has published this as a column,Council brilliance, Kwantlen and the Garden City Lands” (August 17). This post adds hyperlinks, and one at the end will lead you to six related posts.

A promising option for Richmond’s city centre is looking better than ever. It is urban-agriculture research and education led by a local university.

When Dr. Kent Mullinix presented the concept in February 2008, Richmond council’s planning committee liked it enough to direct staff to look at 48 acres of the Garden City Lands for it. (For details, see item 3 in the minutes.)  That was the entire acreage not slated for a trade centre and other big buildings at the time.

Kent is a researcher and educator with Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where he is Director of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. Since 2008, Kwantlen has teamed with the city and local groups in the innovatively successful Richmond Farm School. The university has a new sustainable agriculture degree program, and Kent directed its development.

At my suggestion, we met on the Garden City Lands, since I wondered if the research-and-education concept and that Agricultural Land Reserve parkland are still meant for each other. I now think there could be a solid partnership for mutual benefit.

Kent wasn’t looking for perfect soil. For the “land laboratory” the program needs, the fields might include the raised clay fill in the northwest corner. From there, they might extend east along Alderbridge Way to peatland and/or south in the disturbed area along Garden City Road. “We have to learn to make the most of what we’ve got in British Columbia,” he said.

Much of the parkland is likely to go to ecological habitat, trails, playgrounds, etc., within the single ALR unit, but any part of it can become suitable for urban agriculture education and for community gardens and farms. For the Kwantlen program, a small barn would serve as the research centre, and classes would be at the nearby campus on Lansdowne Road.

Since the Garden City Lands will be a popular park destination, I suggested interpretive signs about the research and education along trails between the fields. “A valuable element,” said Kent. In his view of agriculture, “You can’t ask people to appreciate who and what you are if you shun them. Invite them in! You’ve got to be part of their lives.”

Similarly, he said, “Doing world-class research and education here doesn’t mean we can’t work with community groups and community gardeners. In fact, the curriculum will necessitate the students doing that.”

Kent mentioned that farms that function well also look well maintained. No doubt the faculty, along with the city’s excellent parks staff, would ensure that the Garden City Lands are kept up in a first-rate way.

All of this costs money, and Kent foresaw the university and city pursuing a joint strategy together to bring in federal and provincial funding.

Kent said, “Jim, in the next three years we’re likely hiring several agriculture faculty focused on urban and near-urban agriculture, teaching soils and pest management and cropping systems. . . .” With Kwantlen, the time to partner in that sort of thing is now.

Any concept has flaws. Personally, though, I think Richmond council members were brilliant to encourage the urban agriculture education concept. Way back in February 2008, they somehow looked ahead to when it would be feasible in the city centre on the Garden City Lands.

This post builds on a six-post series. There is so much on the topic because Kent Mullinix has put so much thought into education about sustainable agriculture, which essentially means urban and near-urban agriculture. Click on this Mullinix vision link for an overview of the series.

Personal visioning

May 24, 2010

I’ve added a post a day on this blog for the past 78 days—since March 8. Rather than keep doing that, I’ll write less for a while because I want to encourage you readers to focus on what’s most important at the current stage. What I most hope you will do is think about visions for the Garden City Lands and decide on your own.

The relevant posts are in the category “Visions for the Lands.” You can access them by going to the Main Menu on the left-hand side of this page, looking down to the “Categories” heading, and then choosing “Visions for the Lands” in the pull-down menu. Or you can click here. I suggest that you start at the bottom of “Visions for the Lands” page with either “Terra Nova—an inspiring saga” or “Sustainable Food Park—back to the future.”

Hopefully your own vision will be one that can be accomplished with the lands remaining green in the Agricultural Land Reserve for agricultural, ecological, and park uses for community wellness. We have gradually realized that the only way to keep the Garden City Lands green is to keep the property in the ALR. From one perspective, it’s also a matter of respect and gratefulness for what we have. As part of your own visioning, you will probably find it helpful to review the Gratefulness page. You can find it under “Pages” in the Main Menu or simply click here.

Remember that there is not a single Garden City Lands Coalition vision. Besides keeping the lands in the ALR, we hope that Richmond council will be respectful of the incredible amount of effort that citizens have gone to for the last several years in order to provide their visions through the proper channels, but there is still plenty of room for individual visioning. I think that much of the citizens’ drive came from a shared desire to achieve a deeply better community through the appropriate use of the Garden City Lands, and that can only continue in an active way, not a passive one. In my view, ongoing personal visioning by informed citizens is pretty much essential for an optimal result for the lands.

The social vision of the Garden City Lands

May 23, 2010

A social vision of the Garden City Lands has been presented to Richmond council and the community many times, though perhaps never with that label. I thank Richmond’s Social Planning Strategy Public Survey for prompting me to focus on that vision.

The simple way to get a basic sense of the social vision is to realize that Terra Nova Rural Park and the envisioned Garden City Lands are similar in social culture. Several posts, including “Terra Nova—an inspiring saga” and “More dreaming big,” touch on what the Terra Nova culture is. The Richmond Heritage Commission is particularly good at getting to the essence of Terra Nova, as it did in its annual reports for 2008 and 2009, years in which the park won major provincial and national awards.

The Heritage Commission 2008 Annual Report says, in part:

What makes Terra Nova Rural Park so unique? It’s the background story about individual and community aspirations and values, and a City Council dedicated to making this vision a reality. That vision is one of sustainability where we respect the past and live our future through linking residents and visitors with nature, heritage and urban agriculture, all in one very special park.

The Heritage Commission 2009 Annual Report says, in part:

The vision for Terra Nova Park is to preserve the unique rural character while providing a balance between agricultural heritage, wildlife conservation and recreational uses.

Key to the park’s success is the ongoing recognition of its unique eco-system, the preservation of heritage assets, and the support of community partners such as the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project, which shares fruit and vegetables with the community, and the Terra Nova Schoolyard Society, which brings children into the Terra Nova outdoor classroom, where they learn about gardening and growing their own fruits and vegetables.

Unique programs at Terra Nova have included “Decreasing Barriers, Increasing Wellness,” a seniors’ outreach program that brings frail and isolated seniors into Parks’ recreation programs and services.

The Garden City Lands are larger than Terra Nova Rural Park, more urban, and unique in different ways. However, they share the same kind of visionary thinking. It is an ecological vision, an agricultural vision, and a park vision, but it is essentially a social vision.

Sustainable Agriculture—Yes, No, Maybe

May 14, 2010

Kwantlen cultivates degree in sustainable agriculture,” says the Vancouver Sun headline. The program would be led by Kent Mullinix, PhD, Director, Sustainable Agri-Food Systems, at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Some key sentences from the article:

The Kwantlen Polytechnic University senate last week approved in concept a new bachelor’s degree program in sustainable agriculture with an eye to starting classes in the fall of 2011.

“I think we have a tremendous opportunity,” said Richmond Coun. Harold Steves. “When we first started to talk about acquiring the [Garden City Lands] one of the things we were interested in was the Kwantlen proposal.”

“[Sustainable agriculture] is environmentally sound, economically viable and contributes to social equity,” Mullinix explained. Rather than commercial mono-culture—raising a single crop across thousands of hectares of land—the focus is on human-intensive, smaller-scale farms that grow a mix of crops and livestock, enabling farmers to practise “closed loop” agriculture that enhances the environment.

“This is not going backwards, but it is learning the lessons of our agricultural history. We have a 10,000-year agricultural history, but only a few decades of commercial agriculture.”

Senate approval of the degree concept allows Mullinix and his colleagues to draft specific curricula for courses this summer with an eye to starting classes next year.

“Sustainable Agriculture” is an improved brand name for the “Urban Agriculture Education” program that Dr. Mullinix proposed to a receptive Richmond council on February 5, 2008. Council directed City staff to look at a 48-acre parcel of the Garden City Lands as an option.

The Garden City Lands is an ideal main location for the program but not the only option for Kwantlen. If the city, community, and citizens of Richmond are going to partner with Kwantlen, we’re approaching the stage of now-or-never. However, there’s a fitting saying:

Once bitten, twice shy.

Kwantlen, with a Richmond campus a stone’s throw from the Garden City Lands, has not bitten us. From what I’ve seen and heard, it’s been a great asset, and learners like the individual and small-class interaction with their instructors that’s hard to come by at most universities. However, some in the Richmond community would feel that our civic body has chunks missing from its back after interacting with other partners in Garden City Lands agreements for over five years. It’s promising that the city has been considering this partnership and essentially prototyping and piloting it for over two years, but I suggest that we need to take even more care before taking a momentous step to accept Kwantlen’s overtures or reject them.

On this blog, we have a series of posts that systematically go through the Mullinix proposal to council in six steps:

  • Post 1: The need—ten factors that call the sustainability of our cities into question and suggest urban agriculture as the timely answer
  • Post 2: The vision—four linked elements in a comprehensive program focused on agriculture and community sustainability
  • Post 3: The practicality—seven reasons why the Garden City Lands might be a good fit for both Kwantlen and Richmond purposes
  • Post 4: The challenges—ten examples of realities that would need to be addressed head-on, not taken for granted
  • Post 5: The benefits—twelve reasons to advance urban agriculture, here first and everywhere
  • Post 6: The hope—turning near-disaster into opportunity

The Pave Garden City vision

May 12, 2010

There’s a vision we’ve had to give up in order to make possible any of the green visions for the Garden City Lands described in this blog. To see it, let’s go back to what was trumpeted five years ago.

Instead of viewscapes including a view of the mountains from all around the lands, one would see dense high-rise development and a big trade and exhibition centre with so little business that it could not operate at a profit even on free land. Less than 48 acres out of the 136 acres might have been used for City amenities. That land would have been scattered throughout the property, supplying part of the green space that the development would need.

The development would have been urban sprawl, since the City Centre area plan has shown that the City Centre population goal of 120,000 residents can be met without using the lands. However, since developers find ways to build to the maximum allowed, the Garden City Lands population would eventually have been on top of the the planned goal amount. In the low-ball estimate in the ALR-exclusion application, the extra population would have been ten to twelve thousand.

Since no one had set aside any locations for schools, they would have ended up on the Department of National Defense Lands, the adjacent part of the Lulu Island Bog, if the suggestion from the Canada Lands Company project manager had been followed.

The peatland bog would have been torn up. Instead of continuing to act as a carbon sink, it would have released its considerable stores of methane, which is twenty times as bad as a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide.

The City would not have been able to buy any land until the area planning and rezoning had been completed, four years or more after the exclusion of the Garden City Lands from the ALR. In the meantime, the City would have had to do its part to the satisfaction of Canada Lands Company and the Musqueam Indian Band, with no certainty of actually being able to buy anything after all that.

Even if the City had obtained part of the Garden City Lands and used it for green space, it would not have been nearly enough to meet the City’s standards. For twelve thousand extra people (at 7.66 acres per thousand), the City’s green space requirement would have been 92 acres, which is 44 acres more than the City hoped to buy. Purchasing that green space elsewhere at the recent price for parkland, $2.5 million an acre, would have cost $110 million. Alternatively, city council could have watered down the parkland standard, reducing the livability of Richmond.

That is not a pretty picture, but it is an accurate one. Richmond council still has three members who held onto that Pave Garden City vision as long as they could and may still have not given up on it. That is what they stood for, not the skating rinks and swimming pools they’re suggesting now, which they didn’t even mention in the the applications to exclude the Garden City Lands from the ALR, including the massive second one, many hundreds of pages long.

From this description, it’s apparent why so many of us have believed that any green future for the Garden City Lands would be infinitely better than the  alternative, the Pave Garden City vision. Every once in a while, as we deal with ongoing challenges, it’s helpful to step back and shudder at what might have been.

Back to the future of green

May 11, 2010

The greenness of Richmond and the Garden City Lands can be observable and measurable, according to guest blogger Bruno Vernier.

This post started out as one of several insightful comments on the previous “What should ‘green’ mean?” post. The comment was about Richmond becoming spring green, as you’ll see, and I found the writing itself to be spring green. With Bruno’s permission it’s become something more, as spring green things do. Over to you, Bruno:

Back in Richmond’s pioneer days at the end of the 19th century, some of the people who owned Richmond land lived in Victoria or New Westminster and just left it “as is,” speculating for resale. Others lived on the land and made improvements to it, usually starting with the construction of dykes and ditches, followed by agricultural activity. Thus was born the Garden City, feeding young and fast-growing Vancouver.

Today, it seems that the people who own ALR Richmond land are often either leaving their plots “as is” (speculating on the stability of ALR rules) or doing some seemingly half-hearted agricultural-ish activity. It is not the Garden City anymore. I am told, for example, that not a single farm in Richmond is certified organic. Regardless of the valid reasons for this state of affairs, we can hardly call Richmond a green model.

To me green has a spring quality to it: It implies enthusiasm, a youthful spirit, something to buzz about, something to want to emulate, replicate, and propagate. Early Richmond had a spring green quality to it.

To me the best example of green in Richmond is Terra Nova Rural Park. We are so fortunate to have such a green place. It is so full of buzz, with so many projects and enthusiastic people attracting ever more projects involving ever more enthusiastic people. It is a new spring, budding promisingly, producing a new crop of fresh possibilities.

In brief, green = youthful, enthusiastic, breakthrough, buzzing projects that actually make improvements to our land.

 What would be some indicators of the greenness of Richmond?

  • The number and size of local farmers markets, CSAs and food co-ops
  • The proportion of food-producing gardens on residential properties
  • The number of community gardens
  • The proportion of edible perennials, bushes and trees on city properties
  • The proportion of parkland set aside for wildlife (unmowed, buffered, corridored)
  • The proportion of strata councils with comprehensive zero-carbon plans
  • The number of students enrolled in appropriate skills courses
  • The number of wild species
  • The existence of annual biodiversity counts
  • The number of people making a living helping improve the land

Like—and along with—Terra Nova Rural Park, the Garden City Lands have great potential to spread green, helping Richmond to become green again in observable ways like those. Because of size and location, the Garden City Lands can accomplish far more than Terra Nova Rural Park alone. Richmond could be the Garden City once again.

What should “green” mean?

May 10, 2010

When applied to the Garden City Lands, words like green and sustainability were drained of meaning by the applications to exclude the lands from the ALR. The applicants even called their planned dense development of farmland “Smart Growth” until Smart Growth BC wrote Richmond council to be clear it was not Smart Growth.

However, the goal of the Garden City Lands Coalition is to keep the lands green in the ALR for agricultural, ecological, and open-land park uses for community wellness. So we can’t just give up on green. Perhaps we can help restore its meaning instead.

Regardless of which vision(s) are implemented on the lands, I hope that they will be green with substance, not pretence. That could describe the reservoir lakes concept in the previous post. I wonder what else would be genuinely green? Some possibilities:

  • Use geothermal heating if there will be much need for heating, e.g., for greenhouses.
  • For needed structures, keep permanent foundations to a minimum.
  • If the old antenna-tower use left too much on the lands to allow fully organic farming, focus on organic practices (without worrying about certification).

The last time I particularly invited reader input was with the “Btk gypsy moth spraying” post, and the response was excellent—about twenty comments, including a great deal of informed insight. In that case, reasons for and against were useful. In this case, in contrast, it would be more useful to receive brainstorming ideas that are positive and concise.

Request: Briefly, in your vision, what is a favorite way to make the Garden City Lands green? (Please add it in a concise and positive comment below this post.)

Biodiversity—an invitation to see firsthand

May 9, 2010

Remember the Pave Garden City councillor who ranted in a national newspaper about imaginary opponents? “I will be damned,” he said of the Garden City Lands, “if we are going to use it just for growing cranberries.” Unfortunately, whether that councillor was misleading the readers on purpose or through genuine ignorance, the media-saturation efforts typified by that quote must have been harmful to informed public opinion.

Of course, a recurring aspect in Save Garden City visions is actually respect for biodiversity. We understand why a great deal of Richmond’s farmland is devoted to cranberries these days, but the economic value is at the expense of diversity. The respect that we champion applies to the biodivesity that already exists on the lands and also to the biodiversity that will be added if a large part of the property is used for urban agriculture.

We can combat misinformation in words, but there’s a better way: people seeing for themselves. To enable that, the Garden City Lands sponsors eco-tours and agri-tours. There’s one of each kind of tour coming up, and both of them feature biodiversity. Besides being appropriate for our current needs, that fits with supporting the efforts of the United Nations, which is promoting 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity.

First there’s an eco-tour of the Garden City Lands on a fitting occasion. It’s on International Biodiversity Day, which is Saturday, May 22. As usual, Michael Wolfe will be leading the tour, no doubt pointing out some of the eleven food plants that grow naturally on the Garden City Lands and sharing conservation biology in plain English.

Please read about it on the coalition website’s eco-tours page, join Michael at 10 a.m. on May 22, and bring your family and friends with you to the lands. Michael, by the way, took the Garden City Land photo at right and another one at the end of this post.

Later there’s an agri-tour of Cherry Lane Farm, one of only two Richmond farms that are not in the Agricultural Land Reserve. (The other is the Steves farm.) Cherry Lane uses organic farming practices, and its commitment to biodiverstity goes back to the 1950s. The agri-tour is at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 6. The host is young urban farmer Miles Smart. Please read about it on the agri-tours page and mark it on your calendar.

To be fair to the bog cranberries of the Garden City Lands, in a setting of diversity they are especially beautiful, as this blushing cranberry shows.

The Garden City lakes vision

May 8, 2010

A reservoir lake on the Garden City Lands may not seem like a vision for the lands, but I see it as symbolic of the vision of Save Garden City citizens:

  • Green in a broad sense
  • Idealistic but practical
  • Community enhancing

Let’s start with the basic practical aspect. We gather from Coun. Harold Steves that City staff have long hoped to have a reservoir on the lands in the form of one or more small lakes or ponds. As high-rises cover more of the City Centre area, storm runoff is no longer slowed the way it used to be when a good deal of the water was held up in vegetation and soil.

Something can be learned from the pond not far from the lands at Garden City Community Park, where Richmond’s parks staff have done a great job, much as they have done at Terra Nova Rural Park and other parks throughout the city. The pond (shown in the photo) is part of a relatively small stormwater retention system.

Appealing though that is, it’s only a start. The needs could increasingly overwhelm the drainage system without further stormwater retention improvements.

Reflecting the staff thinking, the 2008 application to exclude the Garden City Lands from BC’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) stated:

On-site parks may contain stormwater retention areas that serve as public amenity for the urban population as a water feature in public space. The non-chlorinated water may be channeled off-site to nearby agricultural land for irrigation. (Appendix 3, page 28)

Whoever wrote that  took part in one of the many self-contradictions in the ALR-exclusion application. That same application also claimed that agriculture on the lands would have to use City water that would be too expensive for the purpose. As you may have noticed, that makes no sense. A reservoir on the Garden City Lands that can irrigate farmland that is some distance away must be at least as good for irrigating the farmland that surrounds it.

The on-site reservoir lake system could also supply water for various other Garden City Lands uses where the water does not need to be chlorinated.

Naturally, on-site lakes would provide drainage for the Garden City Lands itself. And agrologist Arzeena Hamir tells me that—with lime added as need be—it could be used for irrigation for agriculture.

By the way, if you’re familiar with the post below this one, “Richmond’s uses—council’s concept,” you will notice that all of this is in keeping with “Showcasing environmental sustainability,” which is one of the three uses for the lands that council unanimously endorsed in December 2007.

Supporters of saving the Garden City Lands, as opposed to paving them, have tended to envision the reservoir lake system as being designed to be more than ample forever, for various reasons. For instance:

  • When the City Centre is even more paved, with a population that has reached or exceeded the projected 120,000 people, the lakes should still be able to handle the runoff from the heaviest rainfall.
  • Ample size would also reduce the possibility of the water level falling too low for habitat purposes in dry seasons.
  • If it keeps becoming harder to bring fresh water from the Fraser (without a level of salinity that ruins soil and crops), it will keep becoming more valuable for the Garden City Lands reservoir lake system to supply water for other Richmond farmland.

As a “water feature,” the lakes would be somewhere for people to relax on the shore and enjoy the mountains, perhaps from a grassy space with some native trees such as shore pines. Several people have suggested one criterion to me: they should be places where people can enjoy doing tai chi.

Since that image comes quickly to Richmond minds, I guess it’s become part of the community’s culture. Like the Garden City Lands.

“Richmond’s Uses”—council’s concept

May 7, 2010

Richmond council* unanimously endorsed a Garden City Lands

It was at a special meeting of council on Dec. 17, 2007. In my view, it was a pivotal decision.

The concept is three “Richmond’s uses”:**

  • Community wellness and enabling healthy lifestyles
  • Urban agriculture
  • Showcasing environmental sustainability

City staff had filled out the Richmond’s Uses concept for the Garden City Lands in a report the council members received with the meeting agenda:

At this stage of planning, staff believe that the most appropriate uses for the Garden City Lands fit into these three purposes:

Community Wellness and Enabling Healthy Lifestyles

As a City committed to maintaining and improving community wellness and healthy lifestyles, the provision of a variety of outdoor public amenities is necessary to serve a growing population. Examples of these amenities include: passive and active parks and open places for community celebration, and youth oriented activity zones. In addition, a range of outdoor community sport amenities and playing fields is envisioned to provide increased capacity for community use and for tournaments.

Urban Agriculture

The interest for urban agriculture is demonstrated by the demand for community gardens in Richmond. The City has constructed community gardens in four locations across the City and maintains lengthy waitlists for plots. The Garden City Lands could be a model for meeting the need for urban agriculture. The Garden City Lands and its location at the urban/agricultural interface presents a tremendous opportunity to engage the community in awareness building and active programming related to agriculture and food security.

Showcasing Environmental Sustainability

The Garden City Lands could play a significant role in showcasing environmental sustainability. This could both mitigate the impacts of urban development and integrate environmental resources into urban areas. The size and location of the Garden City Lands could present a unique opportunity to develop another environmental showcase such as the establishment of wetlands for storm management and habitat, the creation of an urban forest would contribute to air quality, alternative energy technologies and improving the city’s resilience to climate change.

All nine council members voted in favor of the resolution.***

It was a resolution that drew heavily on the Sustainable Food Systems Park proposal that citizens had already put forward, and it was the context for further concepts and proposals that citizens put forward afterward.

Since then, Councillors Ken Johnston and Greg Halsey-Brandt have joined council. A  strong majority of the current council members seem to have kept faith with the 2007 council’s firm decision and our trust. A minority act as though the resolution never happened, even if they voted for it.


* In December 2007, council consisted of Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Councillors Linda Barnes, Cynthia Chen, Derek Dang, Evelina Halsey-Brandt, Sue Halsey-Brandt, Rob Howard, Bill McNulty, and Harold Steves. All nine council members voted in favour of the Richmond’s Uses concept.

** Not incidentally, the draft resolution phrased by Richmond staff had called them “preferred uses.” Coun. Sue Halsey-Brandt, with support from Coun. Linda Barnes, had alertly requested the change to “Richmond’s uses” to make the resolution express what Richmond would do, not just what it would prefer.

*** The resolution states: “Council endorse Community Wellness and Enabling Healthy Lifestyles, Urban Agriculture, and Showcasing Environmental Sustainability as outlined in the staff report from the Acting Director of Development dated December 13, 2007, as Richmond’s uses on the City’s portion of the Garden City Lands.” It was evident from other votes that six council members envisioned the City’s portion as only part of the lands (within a dense development), while the other three envisioned it as being the whole property (within the ALR), but all nine were in agreement about Richmond’s uses.

Sources: Dec. 17, 2007, Special Council Meeting Agenda, page 3; Staff Report, pages 12 and 13; Minutes, pages 1, 8 and 9.

ALR-allowed uses of the Garden City Lands

May 6, 2010

What activities could occur on the Garden City Lands within the ALR? In response to a reader request, this blog post will give a sense of that, though not a complete answer.

Naturally, agriculture is permitted and encouraged in the ALR. The Agricultural Land Commission website describes agriculture and agricultural land, but the assumption seems to be that British Columbians have the common sense to recognize agriculture when they see it. (And they do.)

Beyond that, the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) normally keeps to activities designated as farm use or permitted in the ALR Regulation. I’m providing abridged lists that are relevant to the Garden City Lands. They’re brief and readable, not complete or precise.

 Activities designated as farm use

  • Farm retail sales if the sales area is less than 300 square metres and at least half is used for selling farm products produced on the farm
  • Preparation and storage of farm products if at least half the product is produced on the farm
  • Irrigating and construction of reservoirs for farm use
  • Agri-tourism that promotes or markets the farm’s products
  • Agroforestry, including botanical forest products production
  • The construction, maintenance and operation of farm buildings including a greenhouse or an aquaculture facility

Note: Any activity designated as farm use includes the construction, maintenance and operation of a building, structure, driveway, ancillary service or utility necessary for that farm use.

Permitted uses for land in an agricultural land reserve

  • Biodiversity conservation, passive recreation, heritage, wildlife and scenery viewing purposes, as long as the buildings occupy less than 100 square metres
  • Use of an open land park established by the local government for any of those purposes
  • Education and research related to uses under the ALC Act as long as the buildings occupy less than 100 square metres
  • Surface water collection for farm use or domestic use, water well drillings, connection of water lines, access to water well sites and required rights of way or easements
  • Appropriate roads

Some uses permitted under the ALC Act wouldn’t be permitted by the City of Richmond. For example, council wouldn’t be thrilled about “unpaved airstrip or helipad for use of aircraft flying non-scheduled flights.”

The Agricultural Land Commission sometimes permits non-farm uses that are not specified in the regulation, and sports fields are an example. However, suggestions like swimming pools and skating rinks that a couple of councillors brought up at the March 8, 2010, special meeting of Richmond council would not be approved, as Mayor Malcolm Brodie rightly indicated. The Garden City Lands would be an illogical location for them in any case.

Extensive visions for the Garden City Lands have been presented to Richmond Council in the past three years, and almost everything in them is permitted or could be permissible.

Learning from the Third World?

May 3, 2010

 “The bog wetlands vision” (just below this post) mentions John ter Borg’s work with Engineers Without Borders, which is making a difference in impoverished parts of rural Africa. Factors like clean water and food security, which we take for granted, have huge value there. John responded to “The bog wetlands vision” by sending a sort of executive summary of his thinking about the Garden City Lands, and it strikes me that his avocation has brought a unique perspective. In any case, here’s what he thinks.


Bogs, along with forests, rivers, and other wetlands, are like giant utilities. They provide ecosystem services for local communities as well as regional and global processes that we all benefit from. Benefits include:

  • The storage of floodwaters by wetlands
  • Water capture and filtration
  • Climate stabilization through carbon storage and sequestration
  • Waste treatment
  • Habitat for pollinators and wildlife
  • Recreational use

Restoring, preserving and enhancing the naturally productive bog ecosystem of an area like the Garden City Lands fits within regional climate change planning (mitigation and adaptation) and the multi-sector vision for sustainability presented by the Metro Vancouver Regional Ecological Health Plan. Even though they are recognized to be important, ecosystem services are usually not paid for directly and, as a result, are currently undervalued in the market economy. It is necessary to find ways to value effects on the presence or loss of:

  • Community health
  • Food production potential
  • Climate stability
  • Clean water
  • Clean air

In that context, it is important to measure the natural capital and ecosystem services contributed by the Garden City Lands.


Note: What John is working on is a concept, not a plan. The aim is to provide support to a community vision for the lands that recognizes and incorporates the values described in the Biophysical Inventory and Evaluation of the Lulu Island Bog.  It would in turn require the support and active participation of the Garden City Lands Coalition and other stakeholders.

At this point, I just want to encourage proactive, innovative, community-spirited thinking about the future of the Garden City Lands.

The bog wetlands vision

May 2, 2010

To a large extext, bog is what the Garden City Lands already are. For many supporters of keeping the lands green in the Agricultural Land Reserve, bog is an important aspect of what they should be. For some, keeping the greater part of the area as primarily bog or wetlands should be the dominant aspect of any vision that is implemented.

Michael Wolfe, a Richmond teacher and conservation biologist, has roamed and studied and cleaned up the Garden City Lands all his life. At left, he is leading an eco-tour of the lands. By the way, the next scheduled opportunity to do a tour with Michael is Saturday, May 22, 2010, at 10 a.m. (Details soon.)

On Day 3 of the Garden City Lands public hearings in March 2008, Michael Wolfe presented his vision, which gives priority to maintaining the wetlands and conserving wildife and plants, especially endangered ones. He has prepared an inventory of Garden City Lands wildlife, which he offered to make available to council. He also talked about eleven edible species of plants that grow on the lands.

Coun. Harold Steves, at right with the Garden City Lands stretching out behind him, wants to preserve and enhance the bog while still keeping the whole area as green space that can be used for growing food as the needs arise. When council members spoke on Day 6, the final day of the public hearing, he emphasized the bog values. In particular, he showed and recommended a remarkable guide that had just been published: Biophysical Inventory and Evaluation of the Lulu Island Bog (Neil Davis and Rose Klinkenberg, editors).

Councillor Steves expressed a similar vision at the Richmond council meeting of May 8, 2010.  In the deep-peat areas, there would be up to 86 acres left as it is but with the water table raised to fourteen inches from the surface in summer. There might be a raised boardwalk for the parkland visitors so that water flow isn’t impeded. Ideally there would be weeding out of invasive species to promote native species such as low-bush blueberries. That would leave about 50 acres to be rehabilited with clean clay sub-soil that is already stockpiled on the west side of the north part of the lands, along with Class 1 topsoil. (Note: The peat is a bit deeper on the east side, and the native vegetation has survived better in the southeast.)

The vision of bog conservation was also expressed on Day 5 of the 2008 public hearing by Eliza Olson, the  president of the Burns Bog Conservation Society. That’s the Burns Bog behind her, but she is a student of bogs in general. She told the hearing that “peatlands store three times as much carbon as a tropical rainforest.” In her call to conserve the Garden City Lands, she informed council, “There’s more than one type of bog, and the rarest and most unique is the raised bog at the mouth of a river, and that’s what you’ve been given to look after.”

The vision of John ter Borg, seen at right in another of his public service roles, would round out the others in this post. He has told me about it on Michael Wolfe tours of the Garden City Lands and the Burns Bog. His theory is that the economic value of the Garden City Lands is greater as a bog (e.g., as a carbon sink) than as anything else. Apparently he knows how to show that by means of  an engineering project that would provide ongoing measurable information, and I’ve asked him to write out the concept so it can be better shared. (The project strikes me as being a long-shot possibility, but I’m hoping for a bit of further insightful enhancement of the bog wetlands vision.)

Some background you may find interesting: John ter Borg was very busy helping plan and implement the Bridging the Gap conference that brought the world to UBC at the end of March. Engineers Without Borders states that it “creates opportunities for rural Africans to access clean water, generate an income from small farms, and have improved access to the services and infrastructure they need to improve their lives. John’s international efforts must do a lot of good, and fortunately he now has a little more time to do good locally too—with the Garden City Lands.

Note: One reason I chose the particular photo of John ter Borg and provided the background is that a recent commenter on this blog who opposes the ALR thinks that people who support the ALR are engaged in a war on the poor, specifically Third World farmers. A single example doesn’t prove anything, but it does illustrate.

Urban agriculture education, Post 6

April 26, 2010

Starting with Carol Day, many citizens have referred to the Garden City Lands as “Richmond’s Stanley Park.” I’ll review that idea before relating it to urban agriculture education, especially the concept put forward by Dr. Kent Mullinix, in this final post in a series of six.

The Garden City Lands are city centre green space that expresses Richmond’s traditional identity, just as Stanley Park is city centre green space that expresses Vancouver’s traditional identity. The Garden City Lands agricultural and bog theme is parallel to the Stanley Park forest and harbour theme. Naturally, Stanley Park is much further along in its development, and we can learn from it.

When a windstorm leveled a forest of trees in December 2006, threatening the identity and future of Stanley Park, citizens turned the devastation into an opportunity. All levels of government, business, and organizations joined in. As the Vancouver parks board says in “Stanley Park Restoration”:

Out of the tangled chaos left in the wake of the storm, opportunities to renew, restore and improve the park were created. Important lessons on topics ranging from forestry to fundraising were learned that will have far-reaching application and value.

The storm that threatened the future of Richmond’s Garden City Lands was federal mistakes in 2004 and early 2005 that would have torn up most of the bog and thrown up towers of concrete. Here, as in Vancouver, citizens have turned devastating events into an opportunity. We too have had remarkable grassroots action, and we too have visions of renewal. So far, though, it seems that none has been sufficiently unifying and inspiring.

If one vision can be unifying for the whole community, including Richmond’s fractious council and the two senior levels of government, it is most likely the urban agriculture education vision. Dr. Kent Mullinix of Kwantlen Polytechnic University rightly calls food “the great common denominator,” and learning to produce local food together for a sustainable community could easily become a common mission. There’s strong momentum already, and we could build from that to implement the vision.

Community groups have been doing a terrific job of educating the community in local food growing, drawing out people’s potential through experiential learning. However, the Mullinix proposal could take us to another level. Furthermore, Kwantlen has already gained council support, is deeply involved in the community, and has shown collaborative leadership. Going with proven success is the simple way to more success.

Talking to Dr. Mullinix, I’m inspired by the way he sees Kwantlen horticulture faculty and students working with community gardeners and farmers on the Garden City Lands, as well as beyond the lands in Richmond. Much more is inspiring, but I won’t repeat here what’s been said in Post 2 and the rest of this series. I’ll just suggest that the effect on the community could be truly transformative.

I hope that council will finally act on its good intentions at the 2008 meeting where Kent Mullinix presented the urban agriculture education concept. There would be challenges to overcome, including the ten I listed in Post 4, but a wonderful Garden City Lands should be just as motivating for us as a wonderful Stanley Park is for our northern neighbour. Even if it turns out not to be the very best vision, investigating it will help us to finally get out of the tangled mess.


A few notes:

  • Along with Dr. Kent Mullinix, the local Kwantlen leadership is coming from Dr. Arthur Fallick, Director, Sustainable Urban Systems, an urban geographer who brings significant experience in open learning, which is very relevant to the urban agriculture education concept.
  • One sign of Kent Mullinix’s leadership is the support he received from his students for his presentation to Richmond council. We learned about it in the follow-up presentation by Shane McMillan, speaking on behalf of the Kwantlen horticulture students.
  • Besides Shane McMillan’s presentation, Dr. Mullinix’s “Kwantlen Urban Agriculture Research and Education Centre” concept paper may be of interest if you’d like to delve further.

Urban agriculture education, Post 5

April 25, 2010

Ready for a pep talk about the benefits of urban agriculture? It’s from Kent Mullinix, PhD.

If you think back a week or two or scroll down, you’ll have a sense of urban agriculture education from the first four posts in this series. In one vision for the Garden City Lands, that would be central in a remarkable future for the lands on the leading edge of urban agriculture on this planet. It was primarily the vision of Dr. Mullinix, Director, Sustainable Food Systems for Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

As a bit of an aside, there are other ways to achieve the vision, e.g., with SFU or UBC or beyond the big educational bodies. However, it was Kwantlen that took the trouble to bring it to Richmond council. Also, Kwantlen has its Richmond campus a stone’s throw from the lands, and, of greatest importance, Kwantlen has the personnel who have shown the requisite passion, expertise, and ability to get things done.

Getting back to the  presentation to council by Kent Mullinix in 2008, here are his twelve reasons to advance urban agriculture:

  1. More sustainable, stable food supplies.
  2. Ready access to high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Less need for processing, packaging, transportation—opportunities to reduce waste and energy use and improve the ecological footprint of the agri-food system.
  4. Closed nutrient cycles—with urban organic wastes composted and used in agriculture, reducing the pressure on landfills.
  5. Enhanced biodiversity through creation of habitat and refugia for various organisms.
  6. Use and retention of regionally adapted cultivars, protecting genetic diversity.
  7. Decreased dependence on fossil fuels and the global agri-food system.
  8. Citizenry reconnected to this vital human endeavour.
  9. Agriculturists connected to urbanites.
  10. Stronger regionalized economy resulting from a substantial new economic sector.
  11. Greater community knowledge about the larger issue of sustainability.
  12. Food, the great common denominator, as the possible centre of the sustainable community.

In Post 6, the last in the series, we’ll revisit the big picture of the urban agriculture education vision.