Students from Langley Fine Arts School combined civics and art education on a visit to a contested piece of forest land in Glen Valley.
On Thursday, about 160 students from a variety of classes visited McLellan Forest, a 25-acre section of woods owned by Langley Township near 84th Avenue and 256th Street.
Members of Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF) took students on tours, while they snapped photos, took notes, and drank in the late-autumn atmosphere of the lands.
"It is their heritage," said Janet McCaslin, a local poet and one of the advocates of turning the site into a park.
Earlier this month, the students at Langley Fine Arts heard from Mayor Jack Froese and Councillor Charlie Fox about the other option for the lands.
The Township has slated the lands for sale, for $3 million, to help fund a new community centre, pool, and ice arena in Aldergrove.
After years of promising Aldergrove a pool, Township council began moving ahead on a plan earlier this year. That plan hit a snag when it became clear at residents around the Glen Valley lands didn't want what they had long considered a neighbourhood park to be sold to pay for the Aldergrove community project.
After hearing from their civic politicians, the students came to the lands to see them for themselves on Thursday afternoon.
"They're hearing different perspectives," said Donna Usher, one of the teachers who kept track of the students.
The students themselves helped spark the trip.
A small group visited earlier this month with another teacher for a weekend event. One of them came back inspired to write and perform a song, drawing more interest from othe other students.
"That kind of inspired all of us," said Usher.
Most of the students seemed to lean strongly in favour of preserving the lands.
"I think it's really pretty," said Taylor Anderson, a Grade 12 student.
"It should not be sold, absolutely not," said Brett Savage, another Grade 12 student.
After their tours, the students met up in a clearing and shared songs and performances with one another inspired by what they'd seen.
Hilary Ruffini of WOLF was happy to be showing some of the students around on Thursday. A former LFA employee herself, she was interested to see the different perspectives and comments from the students.
WOLF has been given an opportunity to purchase the lands by Langley Township, but has less than a month left to come up with a significant down payment to buy the lands.
If the Township moves ahead, it will sell the lands, which include some forests and a former gravel pit, likely in five lots.
The land is in the Agricultural Land Reserve, and is unlikely to be subdivided or to ever become part of an urban area. But private owners could cut down the trees and build homes or farms.
The land has been owned by the Township for more than 50 years, with the lots being taken over due to non-payment of back taxes.
Another nearby plot, also called McLellan Forest, of about 20 acres, has been spared from sale by the Township after the neighbours objected.