A heavyweight in the art world is throwing his support behind efforts to keep Township lands in Glen Valley from being sold.
Nature painter Robert Bateman was doing a tour of Western Canadian art galleries when he made some time to tour the woods, known as McLellan Forest by locals, on Thursday.
“Whenever I can, I try to get out in nature, because it’s good for the health and it’s good for the soul,” said Bateman.
He added that if there are any issues about protecting natural spaces, “I immediately jump into the breach.”
The 25 acre site on 84th Avenue near 256th Street has been owned by the Township for decades, after the lots were acquired for non-payment of property taxes.
While they are thought to have been logged many decades ago, the lands now host a forest of second growth trees. Part of the land was used as a Township gravel pit over the years, and part is a wetland.
The group Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF) has been given until Dec. 17 to come up with the $3 million price tag for the lands. If not, the Township plans to sell the lands on the open market. Although in the middle of a predominantly agricultural area, the lands are not in the ALR.
The Township wants to sell the lands to partially fund the new ice arena, swimming pool, and library that will form the new Aldergrove Recreation Centre.
Bateman joined the chorus of voices calling for the lands to be preserved as they are.
Bateman was born in Ontario and now lives on Saltspring Island. For the last several decades, his realistic depictions of the natural world, including the west coast, have won him thousands of fans.
He noted that his middle name, and the name of one of his grandfathers, is McLellan.
Bateman said he hopes to sway the Township council to change their decision to sell the lands.
In Canada’s centennial year of 1967, he did a series of paintings in his Ontario town of buildings and natural objects that had survived for a hundred years.
Within the next 10 years, most of those had been torn down or bulldozed, Bateman said.
Preservation of the natural world is increasingly important, he said, and people need to see that constant development and growth is not sustainable.
His new foundation, based in Victoria, will be encouraging people to spend more time in nature, for their physical and mental well being, Bateman said.
“This is the rec centre, right here,” he said, encouraging people, especially children, to get outside much more often.
Art and artists have surrounded the controversy over the McLelland Forest lands since the battle began earlier this year. Local artists have contributed money and moral support, and students from Langley Fine Arts School recently toured the trails.