Preserve the wetlands at Horne Pit – that was the primary message from speakers at a Langley Township council session called to discuss the future of the former gravel pit.
The Township is considering developing part of the north and east sides of the 70.5 acre site, which extends west from the 27000 block of 200th Street to 196th Street.
For decades, the site was a gravel pit and storage yard for the Township, but after gravel was extracted from the southern portion years ago, the area was left fallow, and it became a wetland that feeds into the Little Campbell River.
“People and fish can co-exist, but only if the right decisions are made,” said Dr. Paul Simonin with A Rocha Canada. He was one of several people with a background in conservation and environmental science who urged the Township to keep the wetlands intact and to preserve much of the adjacent land.
Similar points were made by Dr. Michael Davies, who talked about the hydrological cycle of the river.
Although the wetlands of Horne Pit are not natural – they were formed around the old gravel pits – that doesn’t matter from an ecological perspective, said Davies.
“Once they’re there, they’re wetlands,” he said.
Government guidelines suggest a 150 metre buffer from the edge of the wetlands before any development is allowed, he said.
The Township unveiled an early proposal for the site that includes preserving 45 per cent of the site in a natural state, while the northern and eastern portions are developed with a mix of small-lot houses, townhouses, affordable housing, and a site for a new, expanded Brookswood firehall.
The Little Campbell – which several speakers referred to by its Semiahmoo name, Tatalu, is a stressed ecological system, Simonin said.
The course of the river upstream of the river often dries up for much of the summer, making Horne Pit the headwaters for the entire river on its journey through South Langley and down to the main Campbell River, which flows into the Pacific at White Rock.
Senior Township staff have emphasized that planning for the site is at an early stage, and the proposal was a sort of first draft.
After the meeting, Mayor Eric Woodward said he was pleased with the input, now that the discussion of the site is out of secret, closed meetings.
“In terms of process, I hope council would first confirm a Fernridge Neighbourhood Plan and then have those properties comply with that plan and all provincial regulations,” Woodward told the Langley Advance Times. “It’s a great spot for a new fire hall, some adjacent non-market housing, which I like. In addition, council should also consider the need for a school and park site within that area, too, which we will need, not just housing ideas.”
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