Skip to content

Letter: Burnaby council 'shameful' for plan to remove 'ecological reserve'

"Who is serving who here?" asks a letter writer.
Burnaby is planning to build an organic waste recycling facility in Fraser Fraser Foreshore Park, next to Metro Vancouver's Waste To Energy plant.


I am very grateful to Ms. Vanderdeen for her excellent Q&A interview with Mayor Hurley.

Like many who have written to the Burnaby Now, I too have questions about the proposed GROW facility and the adjacent district energy facility (is the plan to also locate that facility on the ecological reserve land?).

For example, I wonder why we would destroy wetlands that are a natural carbon sink? I am wondering why the City of Burnaby has not engaged with surrounding districts to see if they might have a suitable location for a green waste recycling facility that would not involve permanently destroying valuable wetlands? I wonder why Mayor Hurley insists that each municipality should take care of their own green waste when Burnaby’s proposed facility would be used to process waste from other municipalities? (Note that the proposed facility would be able to process 150,000 tons of green waste while currently Burnaby only produces 30,000 tons of green waste.)

Another question might be “if we were to build a smaller facility, could another location be found within Burnaby?” And, it might be good to know who stands to profit from GROW?

It is confusing to present the proposal as an important step in reducing GHGs when the proposal is to scrub the gas from the green waste recycling facility in order to create enough gas to heat 5,000 homes. It is also confusing to talk about reduced emissions from diesel trucks having to transport green waste from Burnaby to Delta while Burnaby is proposing that other municipalities should truck their green waste here.

I also question how, in the absence of broad-based public consultation, our City leaders feel it is acceptable that they should decide to un-dedicate a large portion of ecological reserve lands that were dedicated by the citizens of Burnaby and require the citizens to oppose them if they can. Who is serving who here?

I attended the February 2023 City of Burnaby Environment Committee meeting as an observer and what I gathered is that the proposed green waste facility was not a project being overseen by the Environment Committee, the Environment Committee had not seen the environmental assessment of the ecological reserve that staff had apparently obtained, and no referral had been made for the Environment Committee to carefully consider the wisdom of the proposed “trade off” between ecological reserve lands and alleged GHG savings from truck emissions and from replacing fossil fuel gas with natural gas from renewable sources.

In January 2022, Burnaby City Council voted behind closed doors to approve “in principle” a gondola to SFU that would run through a “protected habitat block” of the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, a conservation area dedicated as such by the citizens of Burnaby in a referendum in 1996. By way of further protection, the Province holds a covenant over the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area lands that prohibits such a structure being built. Burnaby City Council, by its “approval” of this project is inviting the Province to waive the protection the citizens of Burnaby and the Province put in place for the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area.

So excuse me for saying but City Council’s handling of the Fraser Foreshore Ecological Reserve looks like déjà vu to me.

The Fraser Foreshore Ecological Reserve is a remnant of once extensive foreshore wetlands along the banks of the Fraser River. The Ecological Reserve exists primarily for the protection and preservation of nature - wetlands, streams, plants, wildlife and birds. It is a place where people who want to know, or be reminded of, what undisturbed nature looks like can catch a glimpse of that. It represents the preserve of the people of Burnaby for generations to come.

The City’s own sign at the Fraser Foreshore Ecological Reserve says:

“The eastern portion of Burnaby Fraser Foreshore park is a 16 hectare ecological reserve containing a diversity of habitat types which are becoming scarce on the Fraser River; mature cottonwood forest, river estuary, tidal lagoon, tidal meadow and old field meadow. The restored estuary and tidal lagoon a part of a salmonid enhancement project to provide critical nutrients and habitat for juvenile salmonids, as well as other fish and wildlife species.

Some of these habitats are newly restored and are still maturing. The open meadow adjacent to the lagoon is being managed as an ‘old field’ with the mix of grasses providing food and habitat for small mammals such as mice and moles. These in turn provide prey for raptors such as hawks and owls. Watch for hunting activities by birds of prey in the meadow and nesting water fowl in the lagoons. These are signs of a healthy, functioning habitat.”

Clearly, someone at the City values these lands.

In conclusion, normally, to un-dedicate ecological reserve lands that were dedicated by referendum, a new referendum has to be held. In this case though, City Council missed the opportunity to hold a referendum in October 2022 and they don’t want to wait until October 2026 to do it - especially when a new referendum might not go their way.

What City Council has voted for instead of a public referendum is a process that requires citizens to organize to file their own opposition, without full answers from the City on the issues, and on a short turnaround time. Shameful that City Council is so willing to discount its citizens. The only way back from this precipice is for the City to send out “mail-in” ballots to every elector in Burnaby and to continue with public engagement.

Thank you.

Yours truly,

Christine Cunningham

In my personal capacity