I have strong reservations about Metro Vancouver handing over control over Burnaby Lake Regional Park to the City of Burnaby.
The 140-hectare park has been operated by the regional district since 1978, most recently under a 21-year lease at a cost of $1 per year.
About 75 per cent of the land around the park is owned by the city.
Given the ecological sensitivity of these wetlands, Burnaby Lake Park has additional protection under regional stewardship. The park lies outside the “Urban Containment Boundary” which is intended to establish a stable, long-term, regionally defined area for urban development. The Urban Containment Boundary reinforces the protection of agricultural, conservation and rural areas.
The park’s current status buffers the park and conservation area from activities in adjacent areas. By reducing the status of the park to a municipal park, this protection and buffer no longer apply. The fact that Mr. Dhaliwal does not see Burnaby Lake as an eco-sensitive area is concerning, especially considering that it is home to one of the largest known B.C. populations of the endangered Western painted turtle.
If someone wants to develop their property adjacent to a city park, they need a simple majority of councillors to agree to the development and the blessing of the Parks and Recreation Commission, which is composed of some of the same councillors, including Mr. Dhaliwal, and a few unelected appointees hand picked by the Mayor. In contrast, developing next to a regional conservation area requires the support of Metro Vancouver whose mandate is protection and conservation. The needs of the region often come into conflict with the aspirations of individual city councils.
The mandates of Metro and the Parks and Recreation commission are different. Metro Vancouver focuses on protecting exceptional representative regional landscapes and providing opportunities for passive outdoor recreation, nature study and community stewardship. The Parks and Recreation Committee focuses on outdoor recreation and providing facilities like sports fields and pools for active sports. Conservation and nature based recreation make up an important but minor portion of the services they provide.
Finally, here is also an economic argument against the transfer of the park. No longer will the cost of maintaining the park be spread among the 21 municipalities that compose Metro Vancouver; that burden will fall on the residents of Burnaby alone. Even Mr Dhaliwal acknowledges that paying for the park is “becoming very expensive in many ways.”
I think this negotiation initiated by the City is not just a question of who can manage the park better, but rather about making development around the lake easier for the Mayor’s contributors.