City urged to save local wetland

ALR land owned by Ermineskin Tribal Enterprises of Alberta and is not for sale

Parksville councillor Bill Neufeld

Parksville councillor Bill Neufeld

In a presentation to Parksville council Monday, local resident and amateur ornithologist Christopher Stephens urged the city to buy the Ermineskin wetlands for a park or reserve.

The property, assessed at $916,000 in 2010, is not for sale and the city doesn’t have any plans for it, but mayor Chris Burger said it is a good conversation to start.

Stephens, who grew up near the wetlands, has done extensive research on the property and has been in contact with the The Land Conservancy (TLC) in Victoria about the possibility of their involvement.

The 84-acre property in the southwest corner of the city, beside Springwood Park and a city well field, is owned by the Alberta based Ermineskin Tribal Enterprises.

It includes 10 acres of marsh, a 32 acre forrest under a city covenant as a park and 51 undeveloped acres, all within the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).

The owners have tried to remove it from the ALR but council voted against that and the Agricultural Land Commission agreed.

The city’s official community plan (OCP) recommends the area to remain ALR or open space and calls for preservation of the natural environment and “expansion of existing parks through addition of contiguous land,” singling out the potential of the area.

In his 16 page report Stephens detailed its value as a groundwater recharge and habitat for numerous wildlife including the 87 bird species he recorded.

He highlighted its value both to the ecosystem and as an educational and tourist attraction.

He recently received a letter from TLC executive director Bill Turner thanking him for bringing the property to their attention.

“There can be no doubt about the importance of preserving what remains of this wetland and you are to be commended in taking the lead in making the community aware of its importance,” he writes and he assures Stephens “that The Land Conservancy will do whatever it can to assist you in reaching this goal.”

Parksville has $2.5 million in its land acquisition fund, but Burger stresses there are many options being considered and this is barely the beginning of the conversation.

Tour the wetland

There is a Parksville Residents’ Association Earth Day walk scheduled this Saturday, April 21 at 2 p.m.

Burger, Stephens and water specialist Michael Jessen will be on hand at the west end of Despard Avenue to help people explore the area.