‘Keep green space in public hands’

Overwhelming sentiment at meeting for lot by park

Whatever happens to the postage-size piece of property next to Maple Ridge’s leisure centre – the property should stay in public hands.

Maple Ridge Museum director Val Patenaude said after presenting her ideas for the property, the overwhelming sentiment from Monday’s open house was that the District of Maple Ridge should continue to own it.

The district held the open house to get public feedback as it tries to decide the future of the green space that lies just north of the Zellers parking lot.

The occasion also allowed the museum to make its case to the public about building a new Maple Ridge Museum and Archives in that location.

“Everyone can agree that it stay in public hands. Then we go into a conversation about where is the best place for a museum.”

It was difficult to gauge public support for the museum proposal because it was an open house, she added.

For Patenaude and the Maple Ridge Historical Society, the location would be cheaper than the current building site in Port Haney, on a slope just south of North Avenue, on 224th Street.

Building costs could be higher in that location because of soil conditions compared to the flatter terrain next to Memorial Peace Park.

However, the Haney Farmer’s Market wants to keep the property as is – apart from doing some levelling, adding some drainage improvements and perhaps utility hook ups and picnic tables.

That way it could be available for Canada Day, the farmer’s market, the Jazz and Blues Festival, Christmas in the Park, Remembrance Day and several other events.

“Large public events such as these would be far more difficult to accommodate without this area which opens Memorial Peace Park to the street,” Ian Brooks, chair of the Haney Farmer’s Market Society, said in a letter.

Originally, the property was supposed to have a hotel as part of the public-private-partnership project that saw construction of the office tower and Arts Centre Theatre.

Later in 2007, the district tried to sell the property, but didn’t like any of the proposals from developers.

Patenaude, though, said a new museum could be located on the second floor of a new building, allowing the ground floor to be an open space, covered by the building.

“So that becomes an extension of the park, with cover.”

The museum society first did its concept plan for a new museum in 2002, and at the time a new building was priced at $6 million. The project has yet to make it into Maple Ridge’s five-year financial plan, although Coun. Craig Speirs suggested that at Monday’s council meeting.

Speirs wanted to start community discussion on such projects such as the museum or a sports stadium by including them in the long-term financial plans.

But financial services general manager Paul Gill said the district didn’t have the money for a new museum.

“We don’t have the capacity to come up with $10 million or even a fraction of that,” he said.

Speirs just wants such projects started. “Even if it takes 10 years, what’s the big deal? So we can get these groups focused on the task at hand.”

Putting them in long-term plans could also make it easier to access senior government grants, if they became available, he said.

Special events groups, businesses and community groups were all invited to the open house.

Parks and facilities director Dave Boag said it was a good meeting – 46 people signed in, and allowed district staff to give an history of the location.