Colony Farm Regional Park.

Planned academy at Colony Farm advances

Critics of proposal fail to sway Metro directors

Metro Vancouver directors are giving the green light to a farming academy in Colony Farm Regional Park despite opposition from environmentalists who fear bird and wildlife habitat will be lost.

Members of Metro’s environment and energy committtee and the parks committee unanimously approved the plans, which are initially limited to development of a 37-hectare starter academy of small-plot farms.

The aim is to foster urban agriculture and sustainable food production.

But the Burke Mountain Naturalists raised objections that it sets a precedent to potentially till over other regional parks for agriculture.

“The suggestion this could be the thin edge of the wedge for other parks is simply a non-starter,” said Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, who sits on the environment committee. “We’re talking about specialty small plot development for educational purposes.”

Environment committee vice-chair and Surrey Coun. Linda Hepner also defended the decision, noting Metro Vancouver agreed future uses must reflect the property’s agricultural roots when the regional district acquired the Colony Farm lands in 1993.

Colony Farm was once a prize-winning dairy and livestock farm, operated by psychiatric patients from Riverview Hospital.

“This land was the land that was originally farmed,” Hepner said of the planned academy footprint. “What’s proposed there is perfectly compatible.”

Hepner called it an approval-in-principle and said she will be keeping a close eye on the potential costs of the project.

Metro plans to spend $5 million on the Colony Farm Academy, which includes spending on irrigation and drainage upgrades, a visitor services centre, a starter farm service centre and other infrastructure.

“When you start to do something like an academy of agriculture, what does that actually mean in terms of costs to the taxpayers?” she asked.

The farming academy plan had been several years in the works, but was shelved for some time to allow discussions with the Kwikwetlem First Nation over possible land claim implications.

Metro officials say the band has had a strong role shaping the plan.

Environmentalists had also criticized the use of Colony Farm for construction of salmon habitat channels to compensate for damage from the construction of the new Port Mann Bridge and Highway 1 expansion.

A staff report says Colony Farm has some of the richest soils in the province and it could support small labour-intensive crop farms, along with the on-site sale of farm products.

The committees’ recommendation must still be approved by the Metro board later this month.

Just Posted

Semiahmoo students to raise awareness about acid throwing

The Grade 11 students are to host a fundraiser for victims

Maritimers bring taste of Atlantic Ocean to South Surrey

Maritime Seafoods owner says they cut out the middleman

VIDEO: Surrey Vaisakhi Parade floods Newton streets

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the annual event

Four Surrey students head to New Brunswick for Canada-wide science fair

Three projects move to nationals following regional fair at KPU

VAISAKHI EXPLAINED: Founding of the Khalsa was a seminal event in Sikh history

There are five K’s – articles of faith – worn by baptized Sikhs

‘No answers:’ Canadians react to Sri Lanka bombings that killed hundreds

The co-ordinated bomb attacks killed at least 207 people and injured 450 more on Easter Sunday

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

Police say ‘no major incidents’ at 4/20, Vancouver Park Board assessing

The first smoke-out held since legalization saw 60,000 people at Vancouver’s Sunset Beach

VIDEO: Langley firefighters spend hours battling blaze in vacant home

Cause of the late-night fire in Willoughby is still under investigation

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

RCMP looking for witnesses to four-vehicle crash in Burnaby

Police suspect impaired driving was a contributing factor

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Most Read