On a summer’s day, a patch of grass at the foot of Bonson Road is one of the best places in Pitt Meadows to be, according to Robert Samson.
The retiree, who lives in a property backing onto Shoreline Park, is concerned the prime recreation area will soon be lost.
“When it’s sunny outside, there are at least three or four groups out there picnicking,” he said.
“There’s a flat patch of grass that rolls right into the Fraser River, and the view is out of this world.”
As part of the recently approved City of Pitt Meadows 10-year park improvement plan for the area – which includes adding new benches, picnic tables, and garbage receptacles to the popular park – getting rid of invasive plant species is a top priority.
Director of parks, recreation, and culture Diane Chamberlain said there is a lot of Himalayan blackberry bushes and reed canary grass in this park, encroaching upon the park from below the river bank.
“Those are really hard to control,” she said.
The city has plans to remove the plants, and replant the area with native foliage, which they hope will choke out the invasive species, as well as provide some environmental benefits.
“We’re encouraging the protection of shore habitat by improving riparian habitats,” Chamberlain explained.
“Grass might provide benefits to birds and some worms, but if you have native plants in place, they actually provide homes for a greater variety of bugs, which leads to greater biodiversity and more food sources for birds and other wildlife,” she elaborated.
“It will encourage other animals and birds to come to the park, which really makes for a more enjoyable experience for people.”
The native bushes would be planted from the river bank’s edge to the beginning of the walking path, eliminating the grassy area with prime river views, that Samson said gets so much use each year.
The development company, Onni Group, has asked to take over the initiative, as a way of offsetting some infill they are doing at the Golden Ears Business Park.
An environmental survey was commissioned by the company, which suggested the planting of 500 trees in the area, but the city decided that was not going to be best.
“It is such a unique park, and we want to keep the sightline of the river there,” Chamberlain said.
“So we declined that part of their original proposal, and said the native plants can only grow to a mature height of two feet, so they do not impede views of the Fraser.”
Onni will be responsible for the maintenance of the bushes for two-and-a-half years, at which point, they will become naturalized and require very little maintenance, according to the parks director.
Work is expected to begin on the replanting this fall, Chamberlain said, so fans of the picnic spot should still be able to enjoy it this summer.
Samson will miss it.
“I’ve been on every dike in Pitt Meadows and I don’t think there’s another area where you can picnic and have an unobstructed view of the river,” he said.
Chamberlain, who met with Samson, said a compromise might be reached.
“Maybe we can maintain some of the grassy area,” she said, noting there might be an option where some of the plants can be moved along the shoreline further west of where the lawn is widest.
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