Walking along the dike beside Pitt Meadows airport this week, a couple looked south toward the Fraser River, where three-tracked logging machines cleared the forest.
“It used to be beautiful,” the man said with a nod toward the stumps, debris and mud.
South Bonson residents have been fighting expansion of the airport and trying to stop development of another two million square feet of light industrial space, but the tree clearing along the riverbank surprised them.
“I can’t believe they even got started,” said John Grindon, who runs a businesses at the airport.
He pointed out that logging so close to a waterway would normally be prohibited by environmental regulations.
Yet, from Baynes Road west, all the trees have been cleared between the dike and the riverbank, along the airport waterfront.
Grindon understands that the airport control tower needs a view of the river, but he feels too many trees were sacrificed, along with other natural habitat.
“How wide a path do you need?” he said. “You hear the crunch and falling of trees all day.”
He was also angry that the loggers brought a tree down on power lines, causing a blackout in his neighbourhood.
Johanne Rensmaag was among other area residents who decried the tree cutting on a Pitt Meadows social media page.
“I have been down to the dike today by Baynes Road to watch the trees being removed from that beautiful area. It is heartbreaking that this has been allowed to happen,” she wrote.
“I have seen no protected flagged areas and no perimetre areas that have been taped off, so it truly is a clear cut and shameful that it continues on right in front of us, with no intervention and no authority to be able to stop it.”
Airport general manager Elvio Pecchia said it needs to comply with aviation safety requirements for air traffic controllers.
The trees along the riverbank were blocking lines of sight, he said.
The airport has commercial float planes operating on the Fraser River, and helicopters can approach from the south.
“Air traffic controllers will be able to better monitor for conflicts between aircraft and respond to potential emergencies on the water aerodrome,” said the YPK website. “Additionally, the program will enhance rotary operations from the south side of the aerodrome.”
Pecchia said most of the trees were cottonwoods, and many were broken or blown down by windstorms. Much of the area was already “low-lying brush.”
He said there are no immediate plans for the area, but it could be developed for some appropriate use in the future, provided sight lines are not blocked.