Glen Valley residents are up in arms about Langley Township plans to sell a series of properties they have considered parks for decades.
"This is a site Stanley Park or any neighbourhood municipality would be envious of having," said Stuart Bucholtz, who has lived in the area for decades.
The lots in question are along 84th Avenue east of 252nd Street. There are four properties on the northeast side of the corner, with the three easternmost up for sale.
Another series of five properties, just north of 84th Avenue and just west of 260th Street, are also for sale through the BC Bid website.
In total, there are 13 lots in two sites, a little less than half a mile apart, comprising 45.84 acres up for sale.
The land in both areas has sat vacant and largely unfarmed for decades, since the Township took ownership of the lands in tax sales in the 1930s and 1940s.
During and after the Great Depression, the Township found itself the owner of numerous properties when the owners couldn't pay their property taxes for years.
Some of those lands, including some adjacent lots to the ones for sale, were used for gravel extraction, or for dumping the soil from ditch cleaning.
However, the lots up for sale now have been largely unmolested and contain, Bucholtz and other neighbours say, one of the last pristine conifer forests in Langley.
"This treasure belongs to all the people of Langley," Bucholtz told the Township council Monday night.
His son Solon backed him up, and provided some evidence for the repeated claims of local residents that the area has been promised to become a park.
A document describing management guidelines for the area described the lot as "Conifer forest, McLellan Park."
Albert Anderson of the nearby Aldor Acres farm also backed preserving the lands, rather than selling them.
He said it appears the site may never have been logged, a rarity in Langley. Between the beginning of colonization in the 19th century and the 1920s, virtually every flat acre of Langley was logged bare.
But there is no evidence of turn of the century logging in the lots, said Anderson.
"There's not a stump in there," he said. Residents have made their own walking and cycling trails through the dense forest, and the sand base means it is not boggy.
The residents, several of whom turned out for Monday's council meeting, also wondered if the Township will get all that it can for the site if it is sold.
They noted that there are no "For Sale" signs on the lands, even though houses and farms in the area routinely use such signs, despite the fact that Glen Valley is the most rural part of Langley.
The area still draws tourists, cyclists, motorcycle riders and others who might be interested, said Anderson.
Elizabeth Wride, a Fort Langley resident dropped by the site on Wednesday after hearing word of the impending sale. She had never seen the forest before, and wondered why it would be sold.
"I feel like there's too little public space in Langley," Wride said.
Mayor Jack Froese said that no decision has been made yet if the land will be sold.
Bids close on June 29, and the Township can either accept a bid or refuse. The land has been appraised, Froese said, and the Township is unlikely to accept a bid below the expected value.
During the meeting, several councillors noted that the Township has other parks in the Glen Valley area, such as the West Creek Wetlands.
However, residents shot back that those lands are all at the top of the escarpment, and these sites are unique in that they are in the valley itself.
Residents have long had a commitment to their forests in the area.
In 1999, a plan to cut down dozens of trees on one of the sites, and to dig out gravel for a dike extension project, sparked a petition campaign.
Other unofficial parks have also sparked complaints when the Township attempted to sell or develop them. Some of the Township's most popular parks aren't parks at all. The Irene Pearce Trail, for example, passes through a former gravel pit.
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