A group of citizens concerned about the fate of a parcel of privately owned land in Linley Valley must come up with the money to buy it themselves if they want it preserved, prompting them to make it a municipal election campaign issue.
Team Save Linley Valley West, which launched an information campaign last month to educate Nanaimo residents on the development pressures facing the area, approached council last week with more than 1,200 signatures asking to have the land preserved as a nature park.
The land in question is assessed at around $6.6 million, an amount Joanne Jonas said is well beyond the team’s fundraising capabilities.
Council decided Tuesday that while additional parkland in west Linley Valley would have positive values, such a purchase is not on the city’s priority list.
“It’s a gorgeous piece of land and in my dreams I would love to secure all the greenspace we can for people in the future because once it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Mayor John Ruttan. “But the age-old battle we as politicians go through on a daily basis is the balance of providing what the citizens want with what they are prepared to pay.
Ruttan said with examples including Neck Point and Linley Valley (Cottle Lake) parks, the city has demonstrated that where it can, it will acquire parkland, but $6.6 million for Linley Valley west is not budgeted.
As the land is developed, the city will work with the property owners to maximize protection of the environment and acquire public access and trailways.
“We sort of expected that, “said Jonas. “I think a lot of the councillors are onside with preserving all of the trails and ponds and forest, but who has that kind of money right now? But it’s not an outrageous amount. It’s certainly doable.”
Jonas first got involved in pursuing protection for the vulnerable parkland after witnessing the current 24-hectare housing development off Rutherford Road.
She became concerned when she saw wildlife being negatively affected by development, as well as the destruction of wetlands and forest along her favourite hiking trails, even though the development met provincial standards.
Buoyed by Nanaimo and Area Land Trust’s efforts to protect 101 hectares along the east park boundary, which the province placed under a new land-use order protecting it from development, Jonas said Team Save Linley Valley West will be making the proposal to preserve the park’s western aspect a campaign issue for the upcoming municipal election.
About half of the valley remains unprotected and vulnerable to development.
“When I first started this, I never thought it would turn into a campaign to save this land,” said Jonas. “I wasn’t sure it was even possible and I still don’t. I mean, you have to just go with it because what do we have to lose?”
Linley Valley is considered a secret gem in Nanaimo. It includes about 325 hectares of still undeveloped parkland that home to a wide variety of birds, deer, beavers, fish and two cougars that are known to reside there.
Already, Couns. Fred Pattje and Diana Johnstone, and candidate Zeni Maartman have toured the property in question, and Team Save Linely Valley West expected to take Nanaimo NDP MLA Leonard Krog through the land Saturday.
Jonas said support for the issue continues to grow.
“I think if someone wanted to develop it, they’d have to tread more carefully now because they know somebody is watching,” she said. “There was nobody watching when the development that is happening now began and if development begins again, we’ll be there when the bulldozers move in.”