Concerns over new park

Neighbours irked by removal of tree buffer for downtown trail.

An excavator shoved piles of dirt down the bank of a brook near 227th Street.

An excavator shoved piles of dirt down the bank of a brook near 227th Street.

The intent is to divert a small rivulet with poor water quality into a larger stream, create a wetlands areas and build a trail to give people access to a mini rainforest park beside 227th Street in downtown Maple Ridge.

But Nina Unger and Janet Nadon don’t like the changes the work crews have brought in the past week.

An excavator has bulldozed a path through the forest floor, ripping open the secluded area. Piles of dirt have been shoved down the bank of the brook that’s a water source for coyotes and deer, and a source of tranquility for those enjoying nature on their balconies.

Unger and Nadon each have apartments on Royal Crescent that back on to the ravine.

Neither likes the idea of opening up the wooded area, believing it will allow more crime and mischief.

“It’s a little hidden gem here, because it’s been so quiet here,” says Unger.

Outside her apartment, tall trees line the ravine and filter out the sun, noise and grime of urban life.

Nadon says the only people now who know about the place are criminals who use it as a get away from the police.

“We get the police down here a number of times with the dog. We can hear them partying at night.”

And what happens to the coyotes, bears and deer if the stream disappears?

“They’ve been there for years. That’s their stream,” Nadon said.

The contractor started work on B.C. Day on the long weekend, which bothered Nadon.

“He was pulling trees out all day.

She said many of the residents are concerned. She’s called the District of Maple Ridge, but heard no response.

The work is part of the construction of the Chances Maple Ridge gaming centre, which opened last fall.

In return for developing the property at 227th St. and Lougheed Highway, Great Canadian Gaming Corp., which owns Chances, agreed to environmentally enhance the area. Storm runoff from Chances’ two parking lots will flow into channels on either side of 277th St., then combine to supply a new wetlands and pond area just down the hill from the gaming centre on the west side.

The combined water flows will be directed into new wetland areas and ponds near the apartment complex. Those areas are currently under construction.

It will be a series of stepped wetlands and ponds, said District of Maple Ridge environmental planner Rod Stott.

“What we’re trying to do is connect the water feature on the east side 227th St., which has a healthy amphibian population over there.”

By connecting the water sources on the both sides of the street, a better system will result farther downstream from the wetlands and ponds, as the creek wends its way through the suburbs to the Fraser River.

“We’re trying to connect the dots over the existing features that were there,” Stott added.

The goal is to create better habitat for salamanders that are in the area and possibly introduce Pacific water shrew and red-legged frogs, maybe even trout.

Currently, the streams aren’t fish bearing.

The project involves creating a short trail, which will give people access to the ravine, creating a new park in the middle of downtown Maple Ridge.

“It’s going to be good, in my opinion,” Stott said. “There’s a lot of benefits coming out of this.”

He pointed out the existing stream that runs by the apartment won’t disappear, but will be diverted to the wetlands and ponds that are under construction. A 20-metre buffer area of trees will separate the apartments from the ponds. The green belt area is part of the downtown plan.

Pond construction takes place in September, with the goal of completing the project by fall.

Construction of the gaming centre and parking lot required removal of about 20,000 cubic metres of contaminated soil, which was replaced by another 100,000 cubic metres brought on to the site. Maple Ridge also required the extension of the 227th St. north so it connects with Lougheed Hwy.

Stott said so far there’s no name for the stream or the park that’s being created.

“We’re going to leave that up to council.”