I met several community members who will be directly impacted by the open pit gravel mine being proposed for the Yennadon area. An information table about the proposal was provided and people were encouraged to take a stroll down 124th Avenue east of 232nd Street to get a better view of some of the agricultural land which will be mined if the proposal is accepted by council.
Attendance at the community gathering exceeded expectations.
I learned that people in the vicinity of the proposed gravel pit have been living next to an undesirable clear-cut property that was once prime habitat for a large number of local species. The clear-cutting took away cherished privacy and created erosion that added so much silt to one neighbour's pond that nothing lives in it any more.
The stream running through the property, habitat for coho salmon, would no doubt have been adversely affected as well.
Once the land was opened up by the clear cut, numerous dirt bikers came in, creating plenty of noise on the previously wooded lot.
I understand that development applications for property have been turned down more than once. I'm not cynical enough to think that the beauty and biodiversity of the property was deliberately destroyed to advance a position that the land should be developed.
Now an application to mine this land. The fact that the owner promises to restore the land to its previous condition after mining the gravel to a depth of 15 metres would be one of the most laughable things I've heard in my life, if it wasn't such a serious situation for the long-suffering neighbours of that community. The promise has zero credibility in the eyes of most of the people I spoke with.
If the mining is allowed to proceed, exactly what material does this owner plan to bring back to the mine site to "restore" it? Is the owner aware that restoration work would exactly double the number of trucks rumbling through this neighbourhood in the years to come?
Is there anybody out there who has heard of a farm being created on top of an old gravel mine site? Houses, maybe, but we need to remember that this land was put into the Agricultural Land Reserve for a reason.
People I spoke with feel the timing of the application may have something to do with the passing of controversial Federal Budget Bill C-38, which has radically altered environmental law as we've known it in Canada. The expectation is that court challenges to Bill C-38 will be launched, and we will see more of our precious taxpayer money going to lawyers trying to defend the indefensible.
Meanwhile, as we wait for the clarification we need, projects like this could potentially proceed with impunity.
Other people in the Yennadon community noted that the pressure on agricultural land is especially high at this time, because if the NDP forms government in Victoria next May, there's a good chance that removing land from the ALR will become more difficult. After all, the ALR was created in the early 1970s by the NDP government of Dave Barrett, and most members of the NDP continue to advocate for the protection of farmland for future use.
The decision Maple Ridge council makes about this open pit mine should be pretty straightforward. A resounding and swift NO to this proposal would put others speculating on agricultural land in our community on notice that this council knows how to take the long term view.
Council has important work ahead of it, and distractions such as this shouldn't be allowed to take up its time. The citizens of Maple Ridge pay our mayor and councillors good money to keep our community safe and livable, and we expect them to serve us wisely when anyone tries to make a quick profit at our collective expense.
Elizabeth Rosenau, Maple Ridge