Reclamation of the Township-owned Horne Pit has sparked concern from Brookswood-Fernridge residents after a large number of trees were removed.
The property, bounded by 200 Street, 196 Street, 28 Avenue and 24 Avenue, was used as a gravel pit in the 1950s and 60s. The Township is now filling in that site, and has taken down several trees in the process.
The activity was enough to prompt Kathy Marsden to write a letter to the Times and to the Township. Although she was out of the country at the time of the tree removal, others notified her that “most of the trees have been cut down and hauled away in gravel trucks.”
“Many of them are those ‘towering conifers’ that TOL’s 2017 OCP (official community plan) is so intent on protecting and preserving….” Marsden wrote.
“The 2017 OCP shows a large area of marshes and wetlands that are designated as conservation. I’ve heard that much of this has been filled in, with only a small part remaining…. The small conservation areas in the OCP were some of the few consolations to those of us who didn’t want to see Brookwood-Fernridge become another Willoughby. ”
According to a memo from Township staff, the Horne Pit reclamation is required under the provincial Mining Act. When the site was mined, the area was clear-cut with a buffer of trees left along the boundary. Some of the low-lying areas then flooded, forming ponds and wetlands. When the gravel extraction was completed, the site was used for depositing excess material from road building, storing equipment and other municipal operations. Since then it has been “sitting dormant over decades.”
“Every gravel pit that’s been extracted is actually required, pursuant to provincial legislation, to be remediated. I.e. you can’t just leave a hole and walk away over time,” said Roeland Zwaag, the Township’s director of public works.
“What we’re doing is fulfilling our requirements to remediate the gravel pit. We’re using qualified professional environmental consultants, geotechnical engineers and we’re adhering to the appropriate setbacks from the ponds, from the water feature (and) from the creek.”
A pilot project was done between the summer of 2016 and September, 2017 where 100,000 cubic metres of material was brought in to the site, levelled and compacted. The project is expected to be completed over the next one or two years, subject to how much suitable material can be brought in from nearby development sites.
Under the new 2017 Brookswood-Fernridge Community Plan that was passed by council on Oct. 23, the Horne Pit area is designated as Single Family 3 and Conservation.
“The Single Family 3 designation accommodates residential development with a range of lot sizes between 5,000 and 7,000 square feet. Consideration may be given to manufactured home parks, detached and duplex strata development, pocket neighbourhood, duplexes, and semi-detached dwellings, subject to more detailed neighbourhood planning,” Zwaag told the Times.
“Note that the OCP designated the property as ‘urban,’ with such being intended for residential neighbourhoods and centres, supported by related commercial, institutional, recreational and park uses.”
However under the 1987 community plan, which was in place when the reclamation began, the land was designated for “secondary school and active and passive community park with some service commercial areas” with a conservation/walkway where the Little Campbell River bisects the land.
A HISTORY OF GRAVEL PITS
At one time there were several gravel pits in operation in Langley for both municipal and provincial projects. Having its own gravel sites meant the Township did not have to purchase gravel from elsewhere.
There are currently four gravel pits in the Township’s inventory, including Horne Pit, Boulder Pit (3500 block of 244 Street), Grey Pit (25700 block of 84 Avenue) and Jackman Pit (1000 block of 272 Street).
Boulder Pit has been remediated, while Jackman and Grey Pits are still being used for municipal operations, such as storage of equipment and material, Zwaag said.
Jackman Pit is the only pit remaining where gravel will be removed from time to time for public works programs, however no gravel has been taken out in the last two years.
“There were other properties which may have been used as pits but have been remediated and used as surplus lands or have been sold and are no longer in our inventory,” Zwaag said.