Pitt Meadows residents who are rallying to stop a quarry that would take 30 metres off the top of Sheridan Hill were celebrating an early victory on Tuesday morning.
About 40 protestors with placards met on Tuesday morning at the office of Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MLA Doug Bing. While Bing was not there to speak with them, staff had some encouraging words. They were in touch with the Ministry of Mines and said it will be requiring a full public consultation process of the quarry operators.
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker has also heard a full public consultation process will take place, which the ministry confirmed on Tuesday. It will include a public meeting in June.
Rachel Robichaud, one of the organizers of the quarry protesters, said a public consultation is significant because it means an initial March 13 deadline for the city and Katzie First Nations to offer comments would be extended.
“It’s a small victory – a start,” she said.
About 150 people met at her property on McNeil Road on Saturday to organize their opposition to the quarry. Most own houses that would be close to the proposed quarry.
There is already a quarry on the north side of Sheridan Hill that has operated since the 1960s.
The new one would be 7.2 hectares in size, fronting McNeil Road, and would see 240,000 tonnes of gravel removed each year for five years. The elevation of the historic hill would drop from 75 to 45m.
On Saturday, local politicians and residents spoke about their plans to oppose the quarry. They have a Facebook campaign, and a petition that garnered 675 signatures on the first day, and a campaign to barrage the mines ministry with emails.
Coun. Bruce Bell told the crowd that staunch opposition the quarry will be the key.
“This what it’s going to take – this is going to be a political decision out of Victoria,” he said. “This is not a fit for Pitt Meadows.”
Former NDP MLA Michael Sather echoed that sentiment, noting that Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge has not been a staunch Liberal riding. That will be in the residents’ favor, he added, as Mines Minister Bill Bennett considers the quarry issue.
“Keep up the pressure on the minister.”
Becker noted that the city lost a fight to limit gravel extraction on Sheridan Hill in 2011, when Lafarge’s extraction permit was extended.
But Becker added: “We’ve got a helluva lot stronger team on the field this time.”
Ken Worley, Robichaud’s husband, said Sheridan Hill residents were shocked to learn about the quarry last week, and how close it will be to their homes.
“From the back of my house, it’s 100 feet,” he said. “There will be no property value. It will be horrible.”
Already, the quarry on the north side of the hill rattles his home when explosives are used.
“At 4 p.m. every day the ground shakes,” he said.
Worley can’t imagine the impact of blasting on the south side.
“It’ll be in my living room.”
He said the hill is a wild area, but he and other residents walk across it through an old road. He sees deer and eagles.
“There’s a lot of people who come out here and enjoy the area, going to Pitt Lake or cycling – there’s so many events that go on around here. To crush it would be a crime.”
The home of Aaron and Darcey Heath would be bordered by the quarry on two sides. Her family was devastated to hear about the proposal.
Her seven-year-old son said: “’So we wouldn’t be able to play in the forest some days?’ And I said, ‘No, honey, you wouldn’t be able to play in the forest ever again.’ And he just burst into tears. I cried all night.”
Not able to sleep, she got up at 3:30 a.m. and posted a Facebook photo of her two sons atop Sheridan Hill, with a post about what was happening. That was shared to 700 different walls, and was the beginning of an organized opposition to the quarry.
“This is a sanctuary to us,” Robichaud said of the hill. “You can tell by the turnout – people are not going to let this go down without a big fight.”
The application for the quarry is being made by Meadows Quarry and lists Bob McLean as the company representative. They could not be reached for comment.