Forest watchers caught off guard by tight land purchase deadline

Organization has until Nov. 17 to buy $3 million North Langley property from Township

The Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF), a non-profit group, has been given until Nov. 17 to come up with $3 million to buy taxpayer-owned land in Glen Valley.

The amount is no surprise: In July Mayor Jack Froese challenged those who want to preserve the forested land to come up with the money.

But the tight deadline appears to have caught WOLF off guard.

WOLF member Stuart Bucholtz declined to comment.

“We have to have time to disseminate it,” he said on Tuesday morning.

Township administrator Mark Bakken also declined to comment beyond stating that talks between the municipality and WOLF are continuing.

WOLF is comprised of Township residents who oppose the Township’s plan to sell what they consider are ecologically significant forests and wetlands.

Before WOLF was formed, residents were successful in persuading council not to sell 21 acres of Township-owned forest in Glen Valley on 84 Avenue, between 252 and 254 Streets.

If the group can come up with $3 million, it will own the 25-acre forest located near 84 Avenue and 260 Street.

The Township had planned to use the proceeds of the sale to buy the Aldergrove Elementary School site on which it plans to build a new community centre, swimming pool and ice rink.

The 21 acres fell into the Township’s hands in the 1930s as a result of a property tax sale. The parcel consists of one five-acre lot and two plots of eight acres each. The parcels are within the Agricultural Land Reserve while those which the Township intends to sell to WOLF are outside the ALR boundary.

In a statement issued early last month, WOLF said it has continued a campaign on Facebook and Twitter to gather more public support for the retention of the easterly properties. The campaign included organized guided trail walks through the site, and gathering names on a petition.

Information made public for the first time about the proposal to WOLF appeared in the agenda for council’s meeting on Oct. 1. It notes that council had anticipated community groups would raise funds for Grey Pit but that understanding “appears to be uncertain.”

WOLF was also expected to come up with a $10,000 deposit by Oct. 3.

If WOLF can secure the funds, it must show it is an incorporated society under the Society Act, and “protect and conserve” the land for a park, trail, education, and recreational purposes in perpetuity.