Anne Gosse looks out across the Langley Bog from the end of a newly built viewing platform in Derby Reach Regional Park.

Anne Gosse looks out across the Langley Bog from the end of a newly built viewing platform in Derby Reach Regional Park.

Bog an ‘environmental treasure chest’

One of Langley’s best kept natural secrets is now available for the public to enjoy

It’s one of Langley’s most remarkable ecosystems, featuring sphagnum moss, abundant native berries and 77 species of birds.

But when Anne Gosse, member of the Derby Reach/Brae Island Parks Association (DRBIPA), tells others about the Langley Bog, most people say, “What bog?”

Consisting of 70 acres of bog forest, 200 acres of mined bog and two bog meadows, the Langley Bog covers a large portion of Derby Reach Regional Park. But for the last century of its existence, it has largely been inaccessible and hidden away from the community — until now.

For the first time, members of the general public can enjoy the raw nature of the Langley Bog, just as Gosse and a select number of biologists and environmentalists have.

A new viewing platform has been constructed off the Houston Trail, about a 15 minute walk from the Allard Crescent parking lot.

Although the information signs and benches have yet to be installed, and an official grand opening is still in the works, the platform is built and accessible to all who walk through the park.

“I just love it here,” Gosse said, while looking across the icy water of the bog through a pair of binoculars.

“This is the only place you can see over the water and this bog.”

The platform offers an expansive, open view of the bog and the towering Coast Mountains in the background. It is also non-invasive, meaning those who come to enjoy the landscape can do so without causing harm to the sensitive ecosystem.

Gosse, who is an avid birder, came up with the idea to construct a platform about a year and a half ago. With the help of the DRBIPA, Pacific Parklands, the Rotary Club of Langley, Metro Vancouver Parks and many volunteers, they were able to bring her vision to fruition.

Prior to this, very few were allowed to access the dangerous area, as the risk of drowning in the marshy waters is very real.

“I’m excited, because now anyone who wants to see birds or the bog can,” Gosse said.

Visitors can also spot an array of species that are unique to bog environments. The Langley Bog boasts shore pines, birch trees, Labrador tea, bog laurel, white tufted cotton grass, wild cranberries, wild blueberries and sundews.

One of the most exciting natural scenes Gosse has witnessed is the nesting of Sandhill Cranes, a rare species in the Lower Mainland.

“Some people don’t realize these bogs are environmental treasure chests,” said Joan Martin, fellow member of the DRBIPA.

“It’s just a place of repose — it’s very relaxing. And I hope that’s what happens, is that people will come here and enjoy.”

What is a bog?

A bog is an area of wet, spongy ground made up of decayed or decaying sphagnum moss (also known as peat), and other vegetation, according to the DRBIPA website.

This slow process of decaying plant matter, taking hundreds of years, has made bogs incredibly important in combating global warming.

In The Bog in Our Backyard, Trinity Western University professor David Clements refers to the larger, more well known Burns Bog as the “lungs for the Lower Mainland” because of its carbon storing ability. It’s estimated that the carbon stored there is equivalent to the annual emissions of 5.4 million cars.

The Langley Bog, although smaller in size, has a similar effect.

“Unlike forest trees or other forms of life, the carbon is retained for very long periods of time, because of the slow rate of decay,” Clements wrote.

“Thus, bogs are great guzzlers of greenhouse gases.”

Metro Vancouver bogs also provide nutrients for the Fraser Delta and act as air conditioners for the environment, he wrote.

An Industrial Past

At one time, the Langley Bog covered an area over 1,300 acres, a Metro Vancouver report estimates.

But now, about 75 per cent of it has been converted into cranberry fields, 10 per cent is undisturbed bog and 15 per cent is harvested bog that was mined for peat moss between 1958 and 1980.

The mining operation, run by Jack Bell’s Langley Peat Limited, used both dry and wet peat extraction operations.

But the Langley Bog, which at that point had never been drained before, proved to be very challenging, Larry Meneely wrote in From Bog to Bag.

The wetness of the bog meant it could take three or four years to dig down just one foot, and a lack of wind in the area made it difficult to dry the peat.

In 1968, a “revolutionary method” was introduce, where peat could be extracted with hydraulic machinery, similar to what’s used in a paper plant. This was undertaken until the operation’s demise in 1980.

Learn More

On Thursday, Feb. 23, the DRBIPA is hosting speaker Dr. Rolf Mathewes, professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, to talk about bogs and other wetlands.

The free event takes place at the Fort Langley Community Hall during the group’s annual general meetings and is open for all to attend.

They will also be hosting their annual apple bake-off, which is also open to all to enter.

The AGM begins at 7:30 p.m., with the presentation at 8:15 p.m. For more information, please visit http://drbipa.org/.

Photos by Miranda GATHERCOLE/Langley Times

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