Protesters took to Burnaby City Hall on Monday (March 13), in staunch opposition to a proposed green waste recycling plant that would sit on 21 acres of ecologically sensitive wetlands at Fraser Foreshore Park.
Protester Sheila Evans wore an inflatable dinosaur costume just outside the council chambers, with a sign reading “NO — Save 4800 Riverbend Dr.,” the address of Fraser Foreshore Park. She was one of around 45 protesters attending Monday’s council meeting.
Council received a report Monday on various engagement measures for the controversial “alternative approval process,” or AAP, by which the city is surveying whether it can remove 21 acres of parkland at Fraser Foreshore Park.
The city wants to use the land for a green recycling and organics (GRO) processing facility, which it says would strengthen its commitment to climate action and significantly reduce its carbon emissions, but local environmentalists and residents are concerned about the proposed location on a sensitive estuary habitat for a variety of flora and fauna.
As the staff report was officially received by council, a woman sitting in the chamber said loudly, “Pathetic.”
The protesters are a coalition of various environmental and streamkeeping groups in Burnaby, including Burnaby For Our Kids, Force of Nature Alliance, Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion, Friends of Discovery Park and the newly formed Save Fraser Foreshore Park group.
Protester Rob Carne, wearing a Byrne Creek Watershed shirt, said the GRO facility is the right project in the wrong place.
“It’s five times what the city needs … There’s no need to have it this big,” Carne told the NOW. “It’s just a bloated project that’s out of control.”
“This is going to be a ‘no-go,’” he added.
The staff report, which was provided for council’s information and didn’t make any changes to the GRO project itself, outlined public engagement measures, including two in-person open houses and an informational video.
But the city’s corporate officer Nikki Best said including an email submission option, which had “been raised by many people,” wasn’t possible.
The province’s AAP guidance document, Best said, was created in 2018, before changes to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act were made in 2021. The legislation now requires enhanced measures for collecting and handling personal information.
“We would have to introduce and develop policies that have not been written before,” Best said. “We’d have to rely on outdated guidance documents, as well as no way to ensure the protection of privacy or the integrity of the ballot,” Best said.
Best added sending a postcard mailout to all Burnaby residents regarding the AAP would cost more than an estimated $30,000, which wasn’t budgeted but could be approved by council.
Best said the AAP is an early stage in the process, noting whether or not the AAP fails or proceeds, the decision is still council’s to approve or deny the un-dedication of the parkland.
Burnaby Citizens Association councillors reiterated that AAP is not the final say on the parkland un-dedication.
“The AAP is not the final step,” BCA Coun. Daniel Tetrault told the NOW. “It’s that first step, and regardless of what happens there, there’s more steps … including important public consultation. And that public consultation – what we hear – is very valuable.”
Mayor Mike Hurley stood by the plan, adding he knows public criticism will be lobbied his way.
“I expected that, right from the start,” he told the NOW after the council meeting. “I don’t expect that we’re going to try to take parkland out and not face push-back. It’s a big deal.”
More information on the city’s open houses will come at a later date.