A round of applause filled Monday night’s council meeting, following an announcement that the east sector land is getting closer to becoming a designated park.
“Nothing is signed, nothing is definite,” Mayor Leo Facio said, after reading from a presentation made at the UBCM conference earlier this year. “But it’s a foot in the door and and a sign that things are happening.”
The east sector is a parcel of just over 92 ha which has been the subject of discussion for decades.
In 1998, the Green Legacy Society wrote an in-depth report of the lands history and future, and has been pushing for the area to become a park akin to the Cheam Wetlands — complete with proper parking, maintenance, signage, washroom and other amenities that would encourage use.
Many members of the society were in the audience on Monday night, and cheered when Facio announced that the ministry of forests, lands and natural resources has proposed the area as a recreation site. The hope is that the Fraser Valley Regional District will move ahead with turning the east sector into a fully functioning park. Facio said the plan hasn’t come out of the blue, but rather has been in the works in camera over the last year.
A Crown Land Referral has been made by the ministry of forests, and that went to the District of Kent in February for approval, as Harrison dissects the district. If FVRD becomes the manager of the park, it would mean the maintenance of amenities would fall under FVRD’s budget, Facio said.
“This is what we presented to the minister at the UBCM,” he said. “The potential is terrific.”
Having a regional park would likely mean more tourism traffic, as people flock to affordable outdoor recreation. One of the top requests from visitors who drop in at Tourism Harrison is for hiking spots. To be able to deliver that to the public is invaluable, he said.
Turning the east sector lands into a park is beyond the capability of the municipality. The trails are currently needing repair, and there are no washroom or parking facilities.
“We don’t have the resources,” Facio said.
But they do have the land, and that could be attractive to the regional district, which is currently working on the Experience the Fraser project. ETF is a long-term plan to connect community to community along the Fraser River. Harrison is included in that plan, with Harrison River as a Fraser tributary.
With the increases in development in green areas, Facio said having the ministry recognize the importance of the east sector is significant.
“It’s an important piece of land,” Facio said, which is heavily stated in the land referral.
“The site will provide added value to the general population for many years towards accessing and enjoying recreational activities on Crown land,” the referral reads. “The Recreation Sites and Trails BC Branch of the ministry feel this is a strong need to have this site established as this will give the ministry the ability to manage this resource by entering into partnership agreements, thus providing liability insurance, enforcing rules and standards and also also allowing provincial resources to be applied to individual sites on maintenance project.”
Other areas managed by the FVRD include Island 22 Bike Park, Cascade Falls, Dewdney Nature, Cheam Lake Wetlands, Neilson, Sumas Mountain, Thacker, Thompson and the Cheam Ridge trail.