COLUMN: Environment a priority

Any development must proceed slowly and carefully, and consider the ramifications to wildlife and natural spaces.

Plans to expand Campbell Heights business park as far south as 10 Avenue could devastate the natural landscape of the area.

Surrey council has endorsed preparation of a local area plan for South Campbell Heights, which runs from 188 Street to the Langley border, and from 20 Avenue to about 10 Avenue. The 245 hectares (600 acres) is mainly mature forest, with a significant portion cleared farmland. It is immediately south of the existing Campbell Heights business park.

Another area east of the park, going as far north as 28 Avenue and immediately west of the Langley border, is also under study. It is 97 hectares (240 acres) in size.

Taken together, the two areas are about 85 per cent of the size of Stanley Park and are significantly larger than Green Timbers.

Any major development in this area will have a devastating effect on the environment. That is made abundantly clear by a consultant’s report.

What follows are a number of the points identified by Madrone Environmental Services.

There are hundreds of mature trees, many of which are 100 years old. In particular, there are significant  numbers of red cedar and Douglas fir. These trees not only retain water, provide clean air and give wildlife cover, but are also a natural asset. Almost all of the trees that once existed in the built-up portion of Campbell Heights north of 20 Avenue have been taken down – tens of thousands of them. They have not been replaced.

The Brookswood Aquifer, which supplies most of the water for residents immediately east of Surrey in the Brookswood and Fernridge area of Langley, and some water to nearby Surrey residents who are on wells, is “highly vulnerable to contamination from surface sources.” The report says it “is nearing or at capacity to provide domestic water without decreasing the water table.” The aquifer would be affected significantly if buildings and pavement covered most of the land in question.

The watercourses in the area drain into the Little Campbell River, which has thus far been spared from the effects of massive urbanization. It remains a diverse waterway and contains many species of fish.

There are at least 13 species of various animals at risk in the area, and the report makes it clear not a lot is known about some of them.

Does all of that mean that there should be no development at all in the area? That’s a difficult question to answer and perhaps it is too early to do so. There is significant demand for industrial and commercial land.

However, the earlier development of Campbell Heights was done without much regard for the environment. It attracted widespread criticism both inside and outside Surrey, and former mayor Dianne Watts vowed to do things differently.

Her Surrey First party now holds every seat on council, so it will be interesting to see if the nine members of council believe in protecting the environmental features of the area.

Coun. Tom Gill has already suggested one portion of land within the local area plan be earmarked for a truck parking and maintenance area. An application for such a facility in the 19400 block of 16 Avenue has been made – very close to the Little Campbell River. It would include truck washing, a mechanics shop, tire shop and other amenities.

There is a definite need for such a facility, and having one near Campbell Heights certainly makes sense. However, it is worrying that such a proposal is being championed just as the local area plan is getting underway.

The large area covered by the proposed area plan is not a park and some of it will inevitably be developed. But any development must proceed slowly and carefully. The significant environmental factors in the area must be respected.

Frank Bucholtz is the recently retired editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

 

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