keeping green spaces, building the community we want

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By: Korie Marshall, Editor

It is sometimes unfortunate when people and businesses don’t want to talk about what they are doing, but I think that can be the best opportunity for a community to look at itself, and talk about what we really want – and then figure out what we need to do to get there.

The logging of a massive lot in the centre of Valemount came as a shock to many residents, and it is unfortunate that the owners and managers didn’t tell the community about it, but we can’t really blame them. It’s private property; there is no requirement for them to consult with the community. If we want to make it so that property owners in the future do have to consult, it’s up to us, and our elected government, to make that happen.

The loss of the trees is a shock to our system, and as much as I love forests, I never expected to feel it that deeply until it happened right in my backyard. There are studies about how trees are important in communities, cities, school yards and playgrounds. I am sure there is some biological or scientific reason why trees matter so much to us, why they make us happier, more relaxed, I am sure it is more than just the facts that they “breathe in” carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, give shade, moderate temperature, absorb pollutants, store carbon… Well, they do a lot, but I think it’s more than all that. It has been interesting for me to feel my own response change, to recognize I now have more of a view of the mountains, that a potential fire risk is being removed, and to see that same change in responses from many community members. It’s almost like a grieving process – we are grieving the loss of the trees, but we know we must move on.

It’s not like we don’t have other trees around, right? The local community forests get their fair share of complaints from neighbouring properties when they do logging at times.

I would appreciate it so much, I would feel so much better if I knew that residences were going to be built on that lot, residences we desperately need. It’s unfortunate that the people in charge aren’t telling the community their plans. They got a great deal on a huge property, prices for pine logs are up, and they’ll make a quick profit without ever having to step foot in this community. Then maybe they’ll leave it empty and deserted, an eyesore, a haven for more invasive plants. Or maybe they’ll turn around and sell it to someone else, and again make a profit, and so will the realtors. And they can, because it’s private property.

I’ve heard and read a few comments in response to complaints about the logging that I personally find disturbing, and I know others do as well. One is “well, you should have bought it.” Believe me, I would do a lot of things if I could, but telling someone the only way you get a say on anything is to buy it – that is not only insulting, it is demeaning.

Valemount Council is budgeting and planning for updating the official community plan and zoning bylaws next year. There are two issues brought up in a lot of local discussions over this logging that I think could and should be addressed by Council. First, the community was using that a lot, which demonstrates a need – we need more public green spaces, especially ones with trees, inside the village boundaries. We’ve got some parks and ball fields and school yards, but most are bare of trees, and the ones that do have trees, like the small lot on Ash Street, are not especially inviting or useful. Maybe there are larger lots that still have trees within the community that we could look at developing into parks, gardens and trails, and maybe they can be connected with existing parks and trails. That definitely needs to be addressed in community planning, and maybe some open conversations with existing property owners.

Second, we want input and community discussion around decisions that affect us. That means we want input in the upcoming community plan and zoning changes, but it’s more than that. The government requires public consultation for big projects like the proposed ski resort. The Valemount Glacier Destinations group has been a good example of going beyond requirements. But we are going to continue to see people and businesses show up here with ideas and potential projects, and we want to know how they might affect us. It’s not about resisting change, it’s about knowing what is changing, and being able to work together to make the best of it, for all of us. I think that is going to require more and better communication and openness from Valemount Council and staff.

If you agree with me, let Council know. If not, let me know what you think.

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