A beloved Port Moody park has earned a potential last-minute reprieve from a pave-over despite a 30-year plan to turn it into a road to Anmore.
A group of Port Moody residents is furious about the plan to build a road linking Port Moody and Anmore that may ease traffic, but at the expense of splitting a beloved, well-used, off-leash dog park in half.
"It's such a bad tradeoff to take your most beautiful, tranquil nature park and put a high- traffic corridor through the middle of it." - Hunter Madsen, Save Bert Flinn Park organizer
They say it's a bad plan that needs to change.
"When this plan came through to pave a road right down the centre of the park and divide it in two just so a developer could build a bunch of houses that didn't really make much sense," said Jeff Poste an IT consultant who walks his goldendoodle named Dash through Bert Flinn Park daily.
"The choice to me is a no-brainer — like Joni Mitchell said 'pave paradise to put up a parking lot?' I don't think so."
The plan came to light in 2015 and 800 people attended public forums to learn more about the developer's intentions, many of them nervous.
But a Vancouver architect hopes to nip the fracas in the bud, by preserving the park and even adding wildlife underpasses and a parking lot.
James Cheng's Hong Kong-based clients, Brilliant Circle Group, bought a 250-acre parcel of the Ioco Lands lands from the the Imperial Oil company. The land extends from the shores of Burrard Inlet in Port Moody, north to the Anmore Hills.
"It will not be touched." - James Cheng, architect for the developer.
Port Moody has made it clear to developers there will be no more development up the mountain, unless the David Street extension is completed, and that's expected to cost upwards of $25 million.
BCG has plans to build the expensive connector — and some 200 homes on the pristine hillside.
No need to 'pave over paradise'
Just as Port Moody protesters launched savebertflinnpark.ca, gearing up to fight for their dog park, CBC has learned there is a potential reprieve.
The architect says he believes the right of way is wide enough for everybody's interests and intends to go public in June with a plan he hopes quiets concerns.
"We have not gone public, because we cannot do this without the city's engineering department saying it's OK," Cheng said, explaining that his clients listened after hundreds of people came out to public forums in 2015 expressing their concerns about the project.
"A lot of people have been using that right-of-way to walk their dogs, and it's become a favourite. We recognize that's going to be a very sensitive topic with the dog-walking public," said Cheng.
Fortunately, he says the gravel walkway people love can be saved.
"It will not be touched," Cheng said.
The plan is to move the connector north of the existing gravel road, used by dog walkers and park-goers. Cheng says his company hired a traffic engineer who found a solution to mitigate community concerns.
He says part of the plan involves adding a public parking lot so that people do not have to park along the side of the road to use the park, which he says is dangerous.
There would also be underground passes, so wildlife could move freely between each half of the park.
Tale of two cities
The road is supposed to connect Anmore and Port Moody and relieve traffic congestion, according to the city.
"This has been planned since 1984, " explained Port Moody city manager Kevin Ramsay.
Bert Flinn Park is two segments, intersected by a road. For now, it is a gravel road. But it has always been planned to be the future arterial connector [to extend David Road]." he said.
"The roads just can't take [the] traffic," said Ramsay, describing summer lineups to get to Belcarra Park that can cause hour-long waits.
"In the case of fires or emergencies, this could be a real concern."
But not everybody agrees a road should be put through this area.
"It's such a bad trade-off to take your most beautiful, tranquil, nature park and put a high-traffic corridor through the middle of it," said Hunter Madsen, who launched Save Bert Flinn Park and started a petition.
"I don't get it, he said.
"While I respect that times change, who knew that 20 years later the park would be so used, so loved, and people would be using the old road bed as the central access point to the park," Madsen said.