Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Riverview Lands

Went to an open house meeting about saving the Riverview Lands for the future. This area has been guarded for many years, created in 1904, and the local community recognizes it's continuing value.

It is full of quaint cottages, older grand buildings of superb architecture, many still functioning. The grounds are extensive and there are botanical gardens, unique trees and shrubs of a wonderful full growth. The stunning variety of mature trees alone (over 1900 and nearly 200 species, as one of the greatest collections in North America) are worth saving as an arboretum, and many are considered valuable as part of a North American gene pool.  Some buildings are run down and have been allowed to deteriorate badly, but they still hold an inner beauty.  Although with some work they could be pridefully restored to a grandeur of the past.

A meeting room in Coquitlam is full of large posters on easels, telling a story of the lands. Some headings were about a 'vision' for the future. But seemed a little like spin to me. I felt I was being manipulated. Many people there seemed to believe that some developers are drooling over the potential of the site for a massive condo 'development'.

The general feeling I had was that most of the crowd, and it was quite a crowd, thought that the deal was done already, with the powers that be.  One woman told me if they attempt to develop this site for the rich, she will be first to face the bulldozers herself.  Originally 1000 acres, 250 acres of this land was already turned over to developers without public consultation in the 1980s and is now condos.
Many people believe that returning some buildings to a mental treatment facility as it once was (Essondale) would have a profound effect, diminishing crime in the Downtown East Side where many are surviving only by theft and being preyed upon. Providing a secure facility with proper food and a clean environment, would probably keep these people from the tragic life they are now living. And the Colony Farm area across Lougheed Hwy could be revived as a wonderful local Market Garden farm to provide decent food at a low cost, and perhaps even pay for itself. 
Lots of creatures call the lands home too, including deer, bear, coyotes, bobcats, and 80 species of birds, many of them songbirds, rapidly disappearing throughout North America.

The lands are under the control of BC Housing, a branch of the British Columbia Liberal Government. When it was a treatment facility for the mentally ill, the neighboring Colony Farm lands were used to grow the food consumed here and still has that potential in a world where shrinking farmland is alarming.

So we walked around and read most of the posters, talked to several people about what they thought about it all. My consensus is that preservation of the site is high on everyone's list. Foremost in many minds is keeping the area public so these wonderful grounds won't end up as just another series of high rise buildings. I was there last summer trying to take pictures of some of the magnificent trees and a security guard drove up and told me the property was private and photographing the trees was not allowed. I was asked top leave.
I have one more reason to feel a dread - BC Housing is under the Ministry of Housing and MLA Rich Coleman. Good Grief, hope may already be lost. He wants to build 7000 more market houses on the site. Should we start following the money yet?

There are certain parts of our environment that supercede money and developers' greed, and it's places like Riverview Lands which have the potential and capability of nourishing the spirit. Riverview could be a precious refuge for our souls in the future.

We may have to fight for it first though ....

pavement or nature?

www.renewingriverview.com   You can comment here.

yearly treefest walk through    A fun event where you learn about the flora.

The Tyee - Riverview   about the buildings and history.