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Council votes unanimously to preserve park land
Harrison's mayor and council has voted unanimously to not support the proposed Sasquatch Park boundary adjustment. The decision was the final item of business on the Monday night council meeting, and when council voted, some members of the public in the gallery let out a sigh of relief. The boundary adjustment would allow logging truck traffic to travel through a portion of Sasquatch Park.
The proposal is coming from Seabird Island and Tamihi Logging, and is only in the early application process to the Ministry of Environment. While the Village of Harrison's opposition to the proposal will be taken into account, a final decision will eventually be made at the provincial level. If the proposal makes it through its next application process, it will be considered by Minister of Environment Mary Polak.
It's a long process, and in the meantime a growing number of people are opposing the plan, including Todd Kabaluk. He has been following the process closely, attending public meetings held by Tamihi and Seabird in Agassiz and Chilliwack.
He said he's thankful that council took the time to consider the matter over the last several months.
"We appreciate that the council listened to local residents and read their letters. It was also clear that each one of them gave this issue thoughtful consideration and demonstrated the value they place in parks," he wrote in an email to Th e Observer. "The decision was a real boost of support on the eve of Canada's Parks Day (July 19)."Council spoke strongly about their opposition to the proposal, on various points. Coun. John Buckley said that once the decision is made to remove a portion of the road through Sasquatch Park to allow for logging access, it opens the floodgate to other industrial activity. "Anything is possible once that road is changed," he said. "Let common sense prevail and leave the boundaries alone."
Coun. Sonja Reyerse agreed, saying it would turn Rockwell Drive into a 'thoroughfare' for industrial activity. And from Coun. Zolton Kiss: "I think if you open the door to one friendly neighbour, you open it to all. I don't support wrecking a park for dollars."
Coun. Allan Jackson also voted to not support the proposal, adding a word of caution. "I will support option number 2, but I don't think it will make a difference," he said. "The ministry is not interested in parks."
Finally, Mayor Leo Facio stated that they "don't want the integrity of the park changed." Council has refrained from making an official decision, until they each had a full understanding of the issue at hand. "I believe in looking at things from all sides and that's what we did," he said. "What happens from here on, we don't know."
Village staff will now draft a letter to send to the Ministry of Environment stating their non-support of the proposal. If approved, the adjustment would allow Seabird to apply for a woodlot license for a parcel of land that is otherwise extremely difficult to access. The woodlot license would see an average of 3,000m³ of timber removed every year. That equals ten days of logging truck activity, or 75 full loads leaving the woodlot annually.
A rally is being held on Saturday, July 19 at the corner of Lillooet and Rockwell Drive, from 10 a.m. to 2p.m., as protesters hope to gather more signatures for a petition, while informing the public of the proposal. Organizers have also created a Facebook page called Save Sasquatch Park, where members are talking about the proposal and the process, and sharing photos of the park.