Saturday, April 14, 2007

Vecchiato's Voice - April 14, 2007 - Dump Sites & Journalism

(Cathleen Vecchiato has been an outspoken environmentalist for the past 6 years. She is a very well recognized champion of the environment and a community activist in Langley as well as in other adjoining communities. Cathleen formed and leads the Langley Conservation Network. Editor-LFP)

Firehall Lake is a gem tucked between Noel Booth School and 32nd Avenue. Some days, not a soul is in sight; on warm spring days, a makeshift beach is host to a handful of sunbathers and swimming dogs. Sometimes, we swim alongside them if it's hot enough.

Then I heard about township's plan to fill in this seasonal lake. Langley has an undercurrent of information--the best information is gathered in casual conversation with other residents. You'll never see them again, but somehow, the encounter made a difference. When I discovered the lake fill project, I was aghast. There is aquatic life in there as a portion of the lake remains year round. The water is a combination of rain, run off, and aquifer fed as the gravel pit was dug deep enough to hit the Brookswood/Fernridge aquifer. However, any toxins that would affect water quality aren't to be found here. Future development and roads will do more damage than a small portion serving wildlife.

I wrote to one of the papers, and unbeknownst to me, my letter was printed on their on-line edition, something where most people probably don't read unless they are avidly involved in Langley politics or have too much time on their hands. Or both. A rebuttal was submitted , and this was put into their print edition. Unfair journalism? Yes. Bias? A rebuttal should not be printed if the original letter was on-line. Pick which medium you want to use, but pick one; otherwise, it looks like skewed editorial opinion.

My forte is adjective clauses; my passion, however, is wildlife and ecological preservation. The writer in my opinion did not have the same opinion as myself of the importance of this former gravel pit, essentially questioning it's value, and suggesting that the herons referred to were probably feeding off some endangered species. That should have been a red flag right there. An endangered species in a lake that township wants to demolish with dirt from construction sites?

However, good fortune prevailed. Because of that letter, several naturalists went to the site and inventoried the birds, amphibians and mammals, and plants. They were able to identify twenty-eight species of birds and a long list of native plants. In addition, the presence of Pacific tree frogs were noted as they were astute enough to recognize the distinctive call.

So why fill in a lake that is home to amphibians and birds--both aquatic and non aquatic? Money.

Fill sites get from $45 to $80 per load, and if you get a calculator and fill in an area as large as this seasonal lake, it adds up to a remarkable sum. But one wonders: Why would our municipality need money? Critics may point to reckless spending, or perhaps to poor planning in Willoughby, with too much development that costs the taxpayers money through servicing subsidies and not enough land for park space. Residential development is a drain on any community and needs to be balanced with commercial and industrial. Of course, the new strip malls are apparent, but the problem with commercial is that a few people may make a reasonable salary, but most workers don't make a sustainable income.

But back to the lake. I understand the mandate of restoring gravel or mining sites to their original state. That is great if it is done within a short time period of the original excavation . However, areas such as Stokes Pit, which had not been an active gravel pit since the early '60s, re naturalize themselves. Wildlife moves in and is dependent on the new growth and other
species that take over.

If the mission had been to restore the gravel pit to provincial standards, I am assuming Engineering would have told me when I telephoned. The response, however, was, It (fill) has to go somewhere...and that nobody wants it in their back yard. So the motive was never honourable to begin with.

Now there is talk of putting a playing field there. I think sports are great, but I sure see a lot of empty playing fields at all times of the day. It's not the right place for a playing field, and with the rejuvenated ecosystem, it's not the right place to use as Langley township's new soil
dump site. A little to restore some of the gravel pit? OK. A lot? Not.

Cathleen Vecchiato

(The attached picture is from Critter Care's Open House. Photo by Sophia Vecchiato.)
One of the jewels of Langley is Critter Care Wildlife Centre, which I first learned about in my Newcomer's packet. The packet gave information about Campbell Valley Park and made mention of this wildlife welfare organization. This non profit cares for injured or displaced wildlife and works on a fluctuating budget, depending on grants and funding.

One of their big events is their silent auction. Not only does it help Critter Care's work, but there are great buys!

PS: Just below are additional Firehall lake photos submitted by reader Blair King. One is an aerial view and the second is the lake looking north.

If you have not attended in the past, please consider Saturday evening, April 28th at 7 pm. The event will be held at the Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club, 1284 184th Street, Surrey, BC (between 8th Ave and 16th Ave). Tickets: $30.00 each, and $55.00 for a couple.
Price includes a complimentary glass of champagne, Hors D’oeuvres, Dancing and Cash Bar. Call 604-530-2054 for ticket information. Also see LFP sidebar for ad & link as well....

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