The path that skirted the river in Maple Ridge Park was once a natural treasure. On either side of the winding path, shaded by big old trees, the corridor provided beauty and an ever-changing seasonal landscape of ferns, mosses, huckleberry, salal, native grasses, ground covers and tiny, almost unnoticeable wildflowers.
If you frequented the path, as I had for decades, you might notice in spring, the first blooms of Indian plum. And when summer arrived, you could pick the tiny tart plums hanging from these delicate shrubs growing along the path. You might also notice the vanilla leaf ground cover. If you dried a leaf, it would smell exactly like vanilla.
There is nothing left of these native plants. They were bulldozed and buried under an asphalt road and lined on either side with wood chips. Large trees were cut down indiscriminately, leaving huge stumps and massive logs lying in the now more open grassy area. Unfortunately, the remaining trees will be more vulnerable to blowdown because the entangled root systems and underground mycorrhizal fungi have been impaired.
The last straw for people like me who are saddened at the destruction of the park’s biodiversity is the installation of streetlights. Not only has the park suffered habitat loss by this project, and thus, fewer birds and wildlife, but the light pollution means less chance for star gazing. It seems that the developers envisioned an urban street rather than a park. Joni Mitchell was right when she sang about paving paradise.
Defenders of this project will point out that the road could be used as a bike path. I support bike paths and applaud cyclists, but I wonder if putting a road through a sensitive ecological corridor in our park was the best location. Furthermore, a ‘path’ differs from a ‘road’. It seems that little consideration was made for the ecological values of the park versus the recreation values.
The cost to taxpayers for this boondoggle will be multi-millions of dollars but the cost to the environment will be much more. It strikes me that the final destruction of a large area of an iconic park in Maple Ridge occurred during the climate crisis.
As I write, thousands of British Columbians are protesting in Victoria about the B.C. government policy of allowing forest companies to cut down old growth trees at an alarming rate.
Saving big old trees is one of the best ways to fight climate change. As more heat domes and flooding will almost certainly occur in our area, the loss of so many trees in the park will mean less shade for walkers and cyclists, and less tree root to absorb water during torrential rains.
As Joni Mitchell wrote, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got, ‘till it’s gone.’
Annette LeBox, Maple Ridge
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Letter to the Editormaple ridgeNature