Graham Vanstone, project coordinator of the Ridge Meadows Home Show, says that mud is the biggest issue organizers. (THE NEWS/files)

$250k field improvement will wait until next council

Maple Ridge’s Albion flats plan on the way

Maple Ridge council is leaving it up to the incoming one to decide if it wants to plow $250,000 into improving the grass field in Albion fairgrounds to make it easier to host events and to keep from sinking into the mud during rainy spells.

Council delayed spending approval of the project at its Oct. 2 meeting. The money would have been used to improve grading, drainage, as well as electrical and wastewater connections to the grassed area in front of the main stage at the fairgrounds.

Initially, plans were to just improve the load-bearing capacity of the field, to allow events such as the Ridge Meadows Home Show’s Food Truck Festival. Those plans would have cost about $120,000.

But organizers from other events held in the fairgrounds said that water, wastewater and power connections were also needed.

However, with the long-awaited Albion flats area plan set to reach council’s desk in the new year, most members wanted to wait until the ramifications became apparent. The area plan will set out a blueprint for a range of recreational, commercial and light industrial uses for the area east of Jim Robson Way, along Lougheed Highway.

Mayor Nicole Read and Couns. Bob Masse, Corisa Bell and Kirsten Duncan supported putting off the decision.

Couns. Gordy Robson, Tyler Shymkiw and Craig Speirs wanted to proceed.

Speirs said the improvements would still be needed for the area and that the Albion flats would remain even with a new area plan.

But Coun. Corisa Bell argued it should be delayed for the next council and after the Albion flats area plan was complete.

Council just voted to defer an Agricultural Land Reserve exclusion application in Albion flats for the same reason, she pointed out.

Read felt the same way, saying it was difficult to spend $250,000 “only to have to go back and redo it.”

Planning director Christine Carter said once an Albion flats area plan gets to council early next year, it would have to go to public consultation. Then an Agricultural Land Reserve exclusion application would have to be filed with the Agricultural Land Commission.

The ALC, however, has given conditional approval to the land on the east side of Jim Robson Way being removed from the reserve, subject to drainage first being improved for farmland to the west of Jim Robson Way.

If excluded, the city then would have to change its official community plan, and also get approval from Metro Vancouver to include the area into the city’s urban boundary.

Shmykiw asked rhetorically how long it took to get city-wide garbage collection in Maple Ridge to a referendum. Masse replied 19 years. Maple Ridge residents vote on that issue on Oct. 20 as well.

Improvements still will be needed to be done to the field, regardless, added Robson.

“Remember, we’ve been working at it [Albion flats] for 30 years, so we haven’t moved yet,” said Robson.

A staff report notes that the goal of the work is to improve the fairgrounds to help out the major events that take place there, such as Country Fest, while retaining its park-like setting.

Mud was a major problem with the Ridge Meadows Home Show for the past few years at the May event.

The home show said it will chip in $10,000 for the project, if it is approved later.

Over a span of 10 years, about $100,000 from the Home Show has gone towards upgrades at the fairgrounds, including partnering with the City of Maple Ridge to put the lighting and electrical work underground, putting in drainage, raising about one-third of the grounds and covering the pump station chain link fence.

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