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Residents petition council to reconsider 'forest' development

The forest edge as seen from Bertrand Creek on the west side. - Submitted photo
The forest edge as seen from Bertrand Creek on the west side.
— image credit: Submitted photo

A pair of Aldergrove residents have not given up their fight to stop suburban development of a 19 acre property on the Langley side of the Township-Abbotsford border.

The property was the former site of the Aldergrove sewage treatment plant, which operated from the mid-1960s until the late 1990s when it was decommissioned and a connection to the Abbotsford treatment plant was constructed. The property had been cleared in the earlier part of the last century for a farm, but over the years second-growth trees had taken over the southern, unused portion of the acreage. This southern portion of the land is also traversed by the winding Bertrand Creek.

The property, owned by Langley Township, was never included in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and had been sitting idle until Township council approved development of 61 residential lots there in February of this year. Adjacent acreage on the Abbotsford side of the border has also never been included in the ALR and is also proposed for residential development.

Aldergrove residents Angela Wonitowy and Jessica Horst had gathered a 300-name petition in opposition to the development in January, and with the support of Kirk Robertson of Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF), had spoken against the residential development at the public hearing held in January.

However, all of council with the exception of Kim Richter, voted in favor of the development on Feb. 3. Due to required setbacks from the creek and ALR lands to the south, 40 per cent of the 19 acres would not be available for development and would remain public lands with a new footpath to be built alongside the creek.

Several councillors also pointed out that proceeds from this residential development would be earmarked for construction of a new indoor swimming poll and recreation centre on the former Aldergrove Elementary school site.

In a recent news release Robertson noted that WOLF members remain opposed to development of the southern portion of the property.

"Should the Township plans go through most of the forest will be cut down to make way for houses. The stream-side setbacks required by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will not allow this forest to survive as an intact ecosystem. Some trees will remain but this bit of natural space will be no longer be much of a forest."

Robertson said that, "In the spirit of working together to keep natural places in urban spaces a group of Aldergrove residents, with help from WOLF, are putting on some events to raise public awareness about the creekside forest in Aldergrove."

On Saturday, May 24 and Saturday, May 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., members of WOLF will be giving free guided tours of the forest, located between Shortreed Elementary/Creekside Park and the Abbotsford border. The tours will start at Creekside Park (28 Ave. and 274 St.) next to the bridge that crosses Bertrand Creek. This forest runs along Bertrand Creek on a Township-owned property approximately between 26 and 28 avenues.

"The tours will be an opportunity for the public to see for themselves this bit of wilderness so near to Aldergrove but so different than the urban spaces that mostly surround it."

Also on May 31, a family-friendly event will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Aldergrove Athletic Park under the covered picnic area. There will be an information station, informing residents about the proposed development of the forest. Residents can sign a petition in favour of stopping the development into the forest. There will be crafts, games and face-painting stations for kids. Harriet the Owl will make an appearance for about an hour in the morning. Visitors can have their picture taken with the owl for $5. All money raised will be donated to WOLF. Hotdogs and beverages will be served at lunch time for free or by donation.

A view of existing homes on the Langley side of the forest's edge. (Submitted photos)

A pond on the northern half of the property is one of two former sewage settling lagoons.

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