Environmentalist David Suzuki is weighing in on the debate over a possible future road through Port Moody’s Bert Flinn Park, penning an open letter to residents of the city.
Suzuki was an advocate in the 1990s for preserving the green space that was later approved as Bert Flinn Park in a 1999 referendum.
A right-of-way for a potential future road through the park, which has been on the books since the 1980s, was retained at the time, and Port Moody Council voted to retain it July.
At the time, the city cited existing traffic congestion on Ioco Road and possible future development on the neighbouring Ioco lands in Anmore.
Opponents of a possible road say there are other options to connect to Anmore that won’t disturb the park, and have scheduled a demonstration at Port Moody City Hall on Sept. 30.
Suzuki penned his letter in advance of the protest.
“I can’t tell you how depressing it has been to follow this story through to the present day,” Suzuki wrote.
“I had hoped that my advocacy — and the voices of thousands of Port Moody nature lovers who joined me to rally, then voted in the referendum to create the park — would help kick-start a long-term shift, and impact your public servants.
WATCH: A road might run through a popular Port Moody park
“Now that the waves of destructive development pound on the doors of your City Hall once again, the very politicians who responded to my message in the 90’s are proving that they really didn’t get it after all,” he adds.
Suzuki goes on to say the preservation of the park is an example of areas where the balance between politics and the natural world need to shift, with the former no longer regularly prioritized over the latter.
“Our very survival, health and well-being, to say nothing of the economy, are utterly dependent on clean air, water, soil, sunlight and other species,” he writes.
Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay dismissed the coming demonstration, calling it a political rally for candidates running for office in the coming October municipal election.
Mayoral candidate Rob Vagramov proposed July’s defeated right-of-way removal motion and council candidate Hunter Madsen, a long time opponent of the road, voted with him.
Clay further questioned why Suzuki was getting involved now.
“If he was involved with it in the time, he would know we saved hectares and hectares of land that was saved for development and that we saved a road right-of-way in case it was needed at some point in the future for emergency access or traffic or whatever,” Clay said.
Clay added that no formal plans have been submitted to develop the right of way into a road.
However, he said under Port Moody’s Official Community Plan, if anyone does want to develop in the Ioco area, they would have to come up with a plan for traffic access, since Ioco Road is currently overtaxed.
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“If there is one, like every other plan that comes to the city, we’re legally obliged to consider it with an open mind and look at what the implications would be,” he said.
Clay added that if anyone in the future did come up with such a submission, it would have to go through the city planning process, which would include public hearings.
But opponents aren’t so sure. Coun. Madsen said the developer working in Ioco, Brillian Circle Group, aims to have its plan for the area finalized in 2019, after the election.
Mayoral candidate Rob Vagramov said that makes this a perfect time to bring the issue back up.
“What do you want out of an election?” he said.
“We need to be setting the direction and the requirements and the expectation for the developers to build around… and if it means saying no to the growth and the density of the Ioco lands, then so be it, because that’s the dumbest part of town to put density in. It’s as far as you can get from transit.”
READ: David Suzuki’s letter to Port Moody residents