Glen Valley residents were at Langley Township council Monday evening to push for heavily forested lands to be turned into a park.
The proposed sale of McLellan conifer forest lands prompted a public outcry. Residents say they want the lands designated a park and spoke at the July 23 council meeting, the last one before council recesses for the summer.
The Township will keep trying to sell a 25-acre section of five lots, near 84th Avenue and 260th Street and north of an old gravel pit.
It rejected the five bids received, saying they were too low.
Hilary Ruffini has lived in the area for 38 years and urged the council not to sell the land.
"What price do you put on heritage, ecology, environment, wildlife and cultural landscape?" she asked.
By not selling the lands, the Township will find itself approximately $2 million short in its plans to buy the Aldergrove Elementary site and build a new recreation centre.
Resident Scott Perry provided his economic perspective on the value of undeveloped land.
"Economists estimate that one hectare of wetland has an approximate economic value of $5,792 to $24,330 a year," he said. "This figure is determined from the market and non-market goods and services derived."
Wetlands pay for themselves by providing water purification, flood control, habitat, and global warming mitigation, he explained.
Perry suggested turning the Gray Pit area into a wetland study site.
West Coast Environmental Law has weighed in on the issues, contacted by opponents of the sale.
Lawyer Andrew Gage has written to the Township with cautions about how the land is treated, citing legal precedents that would likely have an impact on the sale of any lands.
He points to the Doctrine of Dedication and Acceptance, noting that the public has been able to use the land for recreation.
"It is important to recognize that the land owner's intention to make the land available for public use may be inferred from a long history of unimpeded public use of the property, such as has apparently occurred on the lands in question," he commented.
While the Township has not designated the land as park, it's been allowed to be used for recreation, he said.
"The fact that the courts recognize and give legal effect to long-standing public use in this way emphasizes the fact that the public relies on their ability to use such lands, and that taking these lands away represents an actual loss. Even if these lands are not technically dedicated, we would encourage you to keep this in mind in deciding whether and how to dispose of them," Gage said in his letter to the Township.
The Township should also resolve any liability issues related to the gravel pit that once operated there, Gage warned.
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