The perils of force-feeding success

Editor, The News:

Re: District buys downtown lots (The News, Jan. 26).

Something must be said about the misguided plan for the core. 

It is difficult to argue that the revitalization of the downtown area is a bad thing, but how about this all-eggs-in-one-basket-approach local government is taking? 

Elected officials have decided they are going to make it happen, single-handedly, purchasing the land themselves.

If the core becomes a bustling success, we will be faced with the sort of traffic nightmare 200th Street and Willowbrook Road saw prior to the upgrading of the freeway overpass and main thoroughfare. People will be sitting in their vehicles, trapped behind an endless, poorly coordinated train of vehicles. 

What is worse, there is little to no room for such road expansion in Haney, particularly when considering its aimless layout, resembling a giant strip mall, with many shops a mere couple of meters away from the streets.

We may be getting ahead of ourselves, but shouldn’t a plan have a desirable end goal, even if it is decades off and may need a little jump starting? 

The shopping district of downtown Haney, dare we be so bold to call it, is straddled by two critical arteries: Lougheed Highway, including its brief bypass twin, and Dewdney Trunk Road. 

I have abandoned the bypass for Dewdney Trunk when commuting westward to work.  Dewdney, while littered with lights, allows for steady, rewarding progress. Maybe I shouldn’t be letting the secret out, but who doesn’t already know that the Lougheed’s bypass affords only fleeting relief? Then there’s the crawl all the way to the Pitt River Bridge.  Perhaps that’s where thoughts like these were initially conceived, in the fiery bowels of discontent.

Hypothetically, should we force the bulk of development downtown – and further shopping nodes, as they are proposed along Dewdney – our seeming great success will be even a greater failure. We will, in effect, have destroyed no less than one out of two viable commuting routes for residents traveling west from Albion and east Maple Ridge. 

Concentrated shopping activity actually harms the other artery nearly as much.

Think about it: downtown is bustling with shopping. That means hordes of people, parking and driving. Additional people going to and from shops. 

Doesn’t any one plan these things out? Has anyone taken a measuring tape out?  How wide do the roads need to be?  We don’t all ride bikes around town like Coun. Craig Speirs.

If the district were to announce an alternative route, or bypass, north of downtown as part of broader scheme, I wouldn’t have the sense of dread that I have today.  I know, this idea is completely untenable, anyhow.

I dread what it will cost once we realize what we have done and now we have to fix it.  Likely, the existing roads will eventually have to be improved at enormous costs, compensating stakeholders closest to the road, for one. The effects will be limited, and once again, homeowners will carry the tax burden in a town stunted by tunnel vision and nannyhood methods.

Why would we deliberately overtax these roads?

Placing significant shopping, elsewhere, like in Albion, would balance the strain of traffic, and it could help further shape and define the emerging identity in the east that would allow us to share multiple identities in Maple Ridge.  That’s right, identities.  Doesn’t anyone else think it a little arbitrary to hammer us all into the same mould?

 We’re farmers, or quaint towns folks – through osmosis – who like to spend our time where we ought to, downtown.

 The great irony is that I am beginning to warm up to the welcoming light posts lining our main street and the interesting patterns, though jarring at first, stamped into the fresh pavement.  More and more, I can see myself down there, but there simply isn’t room for all of us, much less the shopping dollars that we hope to attract from outside our community, especially if we don’t create other centres or hubs.

 How about a balanced approach, and some diversified tax dollars to help power the, perhaps ingenious, self-contradictory expression of urban chic, small town quaintness we are striving for in a remade Haney?  Sort of a hicksville Newport Village.

 Oddly enough, I am starting to grasp the idea.

Even still, just as we are asking ourselves, how much, in Albion. Should we not be asking the same about downtown? The problems with planning began long ago. When are we going to start addressing them?

James Ruthven

Maple Ridge