Colony Farm Regional Park.

Planned academy at Colony Farm advances

Critics of proposal fail to sway Metro directors

Metro Vancouver directors are giving the green light to a farming academy in Colony Farm Regional Park despite opposition from environmentalists who fear bird and wildlife habitat will be lost.

Members of Metro’s environment and energy committtee and the parks committee unanimously approved the plans, which are initially limited to development of a 37-hectare starter academy of small-plot farms.

The aim is to foster urban agriculture and sustainable food production.

But the Burke Mountain Naturalists raised objections that it sets a precedent to potentially till over other regional parks for agriculture.

“The suggestion this could be the thin edge of the wedge for other parks is simply a non-starter,” said Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, who sits on the environment committee. “We’re talking about specialty small plot development for educational purposes.”

Environment committee vice-chair and Surrey Coun. Linda Hepner also defended the decision, noting Metro Vancouver agreed future uses must reflect the property’s agricultural roots when the regional district acquired the Colony Farm lands in 1993.

Colony Farm was once a prize-winning dairy and livestock farm, operated by psychiatric patients from Riverview Hospital.

“This land was the land that was originally farmed,” Hepner said of the planned academy footprint. “What’s proposed there is perfectly compatible.”

Hepner called it an approval-in-principle and said she will be keeping a close eye on the potential costs of the project.

Metro plans to spend $5 million on the Colony Farm Academy, which includes spending on irrigation and drainage upgrades, a visitor services centre, a starter farm service centre and other infrastructure.

“When you start to do something like an academy of agriculture, what does that actually mean in terms of costs to the taxpayers?” she asked.

The farming academy plan had been several years in the works, but was shelved for some time to allow discussions with the Kwikwetlem First Nation over possible land claim implications.

Metro officials say the band has had a strong role shaping the plan.

Environmentalists had also criticized the use of Colony Farm for construction of salmon habitat channels to compensate for damage from the construction of the new Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 expansion.

A staff report says Colony Farm has some of the richest soils in the province and it could support small labour-intensive crop farms, along with the on-site sale of farm products.

The committees’ recommendation must still be approved by the Metro board later this month.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Claiming she has COVID-19, stranger coughs in Cloverdale woman’s face

Clayton Heights woman will now self-isolate for the next two weeks

Quarantined Surrey mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Cloverdale’s Christine Williams shares her family’s challenges, strengths

Police watchdog finds cops blameless for deaths in 2019 Surrey hostage-taking

Woman was killed as ERT officers fired on man holding a knife to her throat and ‘what appeared to be’ a gun in his hand

No, Delta police are not pulling over cars to check for social distancing

DPD dispelling rumour cops pulling over vehicles with two or more people, checking IDs, issuing fines

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

World COVID-19 update: Six million U.S. jobless claims; Russia sends medical aid to U.S.

Comprehensive update with COVID-19 news from around the world

A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

Groups across B.C. are working together to create what they hope will help people affected by the pandemic

Association launches French-language games, online tools for families learning at home

Games, culture and vocabulary included in new virtual resources

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

VIDEO: Dog missing in Lower Mainland since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Most Read