Sidewinder: Somewhere sprawl must end

The scarred hills and ridges about all that is left following closure of rock quarries or gravel mining operations become subdivisions

The further desecration of Sheridan Hill to allow development of a new rock quarry is absolute madness resulting from the ever present competition for growth between Metro Vancouver cities and municipalities.

The existing quarry on Sheridan Hill has produced huge quantities of rock, gravel and other construction aggregates as a needed component of relatively unfettered local residential, industrial and commercial development for more than 50 years, but that operation is in its sunset phase.

There is nothing unusual about the extraction of rocks and gravel from various sites along many Lower Mainland rivers.

There are vast deposits of quarry materials produced by the last Ice Age lying adjacent to almost any of our rivers and many of them have been mined to the point of exhaustion.

The gravel mining and rock quarrying industry has benefited greatly from the proximity of these operations to adjacent or nearby emerging urban communities, but there has been a downside in terms of regional livability, environmental and esthetic degradation.

This is one of the most troubling results from poorly planned urban development. The scarred hills and ridges which are about all that is left following the closure of rock quarries or other gravel mining operations are usually developed as residential subdivisions or industrial parks. This has happened over and over in Maple Ridge, sometimes to the good, but more often than not has resulted in just more urban sprawl.

It’s going to be interesting to observe how Pitt Meadows city council and the various provincial ministries and regional authorities involved will react to the Sheridan Hill application. As part of Metro Vancouver, the board will have a voice in the decision, along with the Katzie First Nation, which regards some of this area as their spiritual home.

The emergence of the upscale residential development on the southerly and easterly portions of Sheridan Hill is in total conflict with the proposed quarry operation, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the provincial or regional authorities will do anything to prevent this further industrial intrusion into the semi-rural paradise of Pitt Polder.

Considering the larger picture of overall livability in the Metro Vancouver region, the rapid pace of poorly planned growth lies at the root of the almost desperate need for construction aggregate for roads, concrete and other necessities of urban sprawl.

Over the past several decades, the member cities and municipalities of Metro Vancouver have generally proven their inability to do anything meaningful about urban sprawl because they all seem to be in a mindless competition with each other to become the fastest growing and have the largest population. That, in turn, has led to massive, almost insoluble infrastructure problems such as the current chaos facing TransLink.

While many of us complain bitterly about paying more taxes and other transit levies than any of the larger cities in Metro Vancouver, we have only our own local city councils to blame for the growing congestion and not regulating urban sprawl in a more sane and manageable way.

And so the combined failure of local city councils, regional and other authorities gives rise to proposals such as the Sheridan Hill quarry application.

With better planned growth, there would be no need for further development of the aggregate industry in Metro Vancouver.

Sooner or later, we should quit viewing urban growth as the only possible definition of prosperity and stability.

Somewhere we must draw a line in the sand, which we will not cross for the sake of further development.

There must be some space between the river and the mountains that is left alone.

Somewhere this madness must be halted.

 

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.

 

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