Two Albion residents want more Maple Ridge residents involved in the process of planning their communities.
After a chance encounter in Burnaby, the two Albion residents, Craig Ruthven and Lesa Petrik, have been working on building a website that gives information about ongoing and upcoming development projects in the outlying areas of Maple Ridge, including Albion and Silver Valley.
Petrik moved to Albion three years ago looking for a place to bring up her family.
The City of Burnaby arborist received a phone call from Ruthven one day at work. Ruthven was asking for information about tree bylaws, and they started chatting and soon realized they lived in the same neighbourhood in Maple Ridge.
Resulting from this conversation, they began brainstorming to see how they could help the public be involved in the development process.
Two weeks ago, Ruthven and Petrik launched their website - www.ourneighbourhoods.com - that focuses on growing neighbourhoods like Albion and Silver Valley, centring on community building and input into development.
The website has two main functions. First, it is a loosely organized hub or meeting place where people can share photos and stories about their neighbourhoods - to celebrate their neighbourhoods and keep people informed about activities going on.
The second function is to provide resources and information about new development.
This "development updater" will include an interactive map of various development projects happening in areas like Albion and Silver Valley.
Ruthven pointed out that it's "a lot of work" to find information about development projects and he hopes this website will bring together information and point out resources where residents can find out what is happening in their area.
A lot of people see construction happening, Ruthven said, like a road being built, but at that point it's too late to get involved and influence what is being built.
The development updater will include information about what stage development is at, when key meetings will take place, and other information about projects.
"This will make it understandable and user friendly," Petrik said.
Ruthven, who ran for mayor last November in Maple Ridge and captured 40 per cent of the vote, said many people don't know how to get involved or don't see the connection between what's hap-pening in their neighbourhoods and what could happen if they were involved.
"We're not recreating the wheel," Ruthven said. "We just want to shed light on critical processes."
In this way, the public will be empowered to see the part they can play in the development process.
Areas like Silver Valley and Albion "rival any other place in the world" for their beauty, Ruthven said, and he doesn't want to see more development for just development's sake.
In 1996, the population of Albion was 610, but in 2011 it was 5,456, what Ruthven calls "explosive growth."
"We're just saying wait a minute - so much has happened so fast," he said.
Petrik said she has a lot of community pride and enjoys being involved in what's happening, for example, a recent tree planting event at Albion Elementary that brought together people from the area for a common purpose.
People generally want to be involved, she said, and want to know how to connect with their communities. The website will hopefully allow them to become involved.
"I want to see communities come together, neighbourhoods come together and find ways to improve and develop their area so they leave a legacy behind," Petrik said. "I want to see communities develop to be unique - not just another suburban sprawl that's been put together."
It's the "perfect time" to get involved, Ruthven said, as there are currently a lot of applications at municipal hall being considered for Albion and more density might be added to the area - an open house was held on the issue last week.