Built with love: More than a year in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Langley platform offers safe view of sensitive terrain

The public cannot go into the bog except by special arrangement.

There’s a place in Langley where you can look – but can’t touch.

The Langley Bog in Derby Reach Regional Park, just west of Fort Langley, constitutes a sensitive ecosystem that was severely damaged by decades of commercial peat moss mining. It has been slowly recovering since the mining stopped in the 1980s.

Add to that the dangers awaiting anyone who treads less than carefully through the treacherous terrain, and the “restricted access” is entirely understandable. Special permits are required to enter into the bog lands.

But people who understand the bog and know its beauty wanted to share.

That’s the inspiration that brought volunteers of the Derby Reach/Brae Island Parks Association together to build a viewing platform at the edge of the bog, off the Houston Trail.

The platform is officially open now, but it has been in use for some time – even before it was finished, said chair Joakim Nilsson, who joined DRBIPA just three years ago.

People “borrowed” lumber intended for the walkway to rig temporary ramps up to the platform because they were unwilling to wait for their chance to experience the breathtaking view of the bog.

The platform, in a carefully chosen location, started with metal foundation posts, set by a company brought in to do the work in a way that created minimal impact to the bog, Nilsson said.

That was in late 2015, and work throughout 2016 was done by dedicated volunteers.

The group partnered with Metro Parks, whose staff oversaw safety aspects and permissions. Metro was also responsible for full wheelchair access with a ramp and walkway.

Money for the project came from Metro, the Pacific Parklands Project, and anonymous donors – one who brought $25,000 to the table.

The platform and approach from the Houston Trail is effectively finished, but signage is still being completed to Metro Parks standards.

It’s about a kilometre in from the Houston Trail parking lot, on mostly level ground, so it’s accessible to folks who might not feel like walking the entire Houston Trail, Nilsson pointed out.

Long-term goal, he explained, is greater public access to appreciate the bog. But safety is an issue, as is the bog’s sensitive ecosystem, which is home to at least 70 species of birds, including a colony of rare sandhill cranes that nests nearby each year.

Special permits with severe restrictions are required to enter the bog lands.

Bog botanist David Clement, of Trinity Western University, recently led a rare bog access event – a two-hour walk taking participants deep into the bog.

Nilsson credits the late Bays Blackhall with much of the impetus to save the bog, as well as creation of the adjacent Houston Trail. In the mid-1980s the bog was threatened by “progress” several times.

It was a suggested location for the southern terminus for a proposed Golden Ears Bridge, and was also one of five shortlisted sites for a metro-area garbage dump, until the idea was scrapped in favour of trucking Lower Mainland waste to Cache Creek.

Prior to that, the bog was extensively mined for peat moss through several decades. Although the bog has been healing, the recovery has been slow, and visual reminders of the operation are everywhere, including the rusting remains of an old peat processing plant that at least one sandhill crane chose as a nursery for its young.

Nilsson is an avid user of the trails throughout the area, and when he joined he responded to an ad seeking people interested in getting involved.

One of the board’s chief aims is to create greater harmony between different park users, such as walker, cyclists, dog walkers, and others.

While there is a private grand opening ceremony planned this weekend, due to the sensitive nature of the facilities, it is not a public event. But to learn more about the bog and the association, people can visit drbipa.org.

 

Built with love: More than a year in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Built with love: More than a year in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Built with love: More than a year in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

Built with love: More than a year in the making a new, limited-access viewing platform overlooks the Langley Bog. (Special to the Langley Advance)

David Clements, a botanist from Trinity Western University, is an expert on the Langley Bog’s ecology. (Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance)

Bog laurel is pretty but poisonous. (Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance)

You can drink Labrador tea, but it has been said that too much could cause you some discomfort. (Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance)

Wild blueberries in bloom. (Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance)

David Clement points to a handful of native cranberry plants. Commercially grown cranberries are native to Eastern Canada. They co-exist with the native berries, but do not cross-breed. (Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance)

A view down an old peat mining track. Special permission is needed to access the bog, both for the protection of the bog as it slowly recovers from three decades of mining, and for the safety of people for whom a misstep could mean disappearance into the six-metre-deep bog. (Bob Groeneveld/Langley Advance)