Opponents of Langley Township’s plan to sell Gray Pit in Glen Valley have a new ally: The Kwantlen First Nation.
On Monday, Brandon Gabriel asked Mayor Jack Froese and council to “respect the goodwill that we have between our communities” and defer the proposed sale of the 25-acre forest.
Gabriel is the special projects co-ordinator for the Seyem’ Qwantlen Business Group, the business, lands and resources subsidiary of the Kwantlen First Nation.
Gabriel asked for the sale of the land to be deferred until Chief Marilyn Gabriel, and Councillors Tumia Knott and Les Antone “have a chance to weigh in on the issue.”
Gray Pit is a forested former gravel pit that lies between 257A and 260 Streets, north of 84 Avenue (also known as Gray Road).
A few blocks away lies McLellan Park which residents successfully lobbied Township council to preserve.
The municipality had hoped to use the funds from the sale of the 21-acre McLellan Park to finance the purchase of the Aldergrove Elementary school site on which it plans to build a community centre, ice rink and swimming pool.
Gray Pit forest consists of several parcels, five of which the Township has listed for sale.
An appraisal earlier this summer placed the value of three five-acre lots at $625,000 each, one five-acre parcel at $645,000, and another five acres at $578,000.
Several weeks ago, the Township rejected auction bids because they were too low. The parcels are now listed on MLS.
McLellan Park and Gray Pit forests came into Township hands in the 1930s when their owners were unable to pay the annual property taxes.
Trails B.C. views the two properties as ideal links for the Trans Canada Trail, allowing a portion that lies close to 88 Avenue to be re-routed through the forest.
Stuart Bucholtz is one of many residents backing public ownership of the properties, and on Monday he read a message from Trails B.C. member Larri Woodrow, a portion of which stated: “If a connected trail between and into the two forested parcels along 84 Avenue along with connections to the Fraser River front could be realized, it would present an opportunity to take the Trans Canada Trail off a significant portion of River Road (and) trail connections could be further made with the upper escarpment.”
A trail network through deforested land “will likely lose its natural values,” Woodrow wrote.
The McLellan Park and Gray Pit forests “are not two 25-acre parcels of trees in some rural backwater, but part of a sensitive, vibrant and important ecosystem of regional significance and environmental importance,” Hillary Ruffini told council.
“If you sell any of the properties the environmental benefits will be lost forever,” said Ruffini, who has lived only blocks from the forest for 38 years.
“This land should not be sold for expediency’s sake,” Ruffini said.
If council is bending to the residents’ wishes, no one is saying.
Mayor Jack Froese said on Tuesday that the issue will be discussed at next Monday’s in-camera session that precedes the public meetings.
Froese declined to say if there’s a softening on council’s stand.
The issue, he would only say, “is in a holding pattern.”