There was simply no way to raise $3 million in two and a half months, Glen Valley conservationists told Langley Township council Monday.
Members of Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF) asked the council to preserve 25 acres of land in Glen Valley at 260th Street and 84th Avenue, regardless of the group’s inability to purchase the six lots.
“Please cancel the sale of these properties and pursue other options to preserve them,” said Scott Perry, the chair of WOLF.
The group has been campaigning since last summer to preserve two treed lots on the Glen Valley floodplain.
The first, smaller and more densely forested lot, was taken off the market after the public outcry and is being kept by the Township.
The council voted to move ahead with the sale of the second set of six lots, known as Gray Pit or, by WOLF and its supporters, as McLellan Park East.
The former gravel pit was acquired for non-payment of taxes decades ago. Part of the land has been used for gravel extraction, but other parts have been left entirely vacant for many years.
“In my professional opinion, this forest is what would clearly be defined by the province… as mature, or perhaps mature to old growth,” said David Jordan, who teaches geology and environmental studies at Trinity Western University.
The ecological significance of the land was a theme hit by several of the speakers.
Mark Haddock brought a letter from the B.C. Ministry of the Environment.
“The subject properties have high ecological value; they are within the under-represented Coastal Western Hemlock very dry maritime… ecological unit of which there are only a few protected remnants with the Fraser Lowlands ecosection,” said the letter from Jennie Aikman, a regional planner for BC Parks on the south coast.
The wetland and forests on the land would provide habitat for protected species, the letter said, and the forest has been identified as a regional priority to acquire.
However, the ministry itself doesn’t have the budget to buy the lands. Aikmen urged WOLF to work with local governments and conservation groups to protect the lands.
Given the short timeline, WOLF has been pulling itself together as an organization at the same time as it began trying to find funding and partners to purchase the Gray Pit lands.
Petrina Arnason noted that WOLF members have talked to Metro Vancouver Parks, a variety of nature conservancy charities, groups working on the Trans Canada Trail, with various levels of government, and with a fundraising expert.
The expert told them that it can take two to three years to successfully run a fundraising campaign to buy a property like this one.
The original reason for selling the land was to raise money to fund the new rec centre, including a pool and new ice rink, in Aldergrove.
However, the land sale has now apparently been decoupled from the rec centre project, which has been moving forward in recent months with public meetings about the project’s final design.
The deadline for WOLF to buy the land is Dec. 17, after which the lands could go back on the open market for anyone to purchase. The six lots are priced at $300,000 each.