Category Archives: Environment

Uncovering Creeks in Hume Park

Photo Courtesy City of New Westminster

Photo Courtesy City of New Westminster

Hume Park is one of my favourite parks in New Westminster. Since moving to the east side of New West a few years ago, this park has become my go-to place for recreation. Side by side with tiny Hume Park Elementary (whose fate I ruminated on a few years ago), the  much-loved spray park and playground, dog off-leash park, playing fields, outdoor pool, and wide, sweeping, flexible lawn space, Hume Park has woven its way into my family’s life more than Moody Park ever did when we lived on the west side of town.

Recently, we’ve gotten into geocaching as a free, fun, family activity and Hume Park offers a few of those too that are kid-friendly and beginner level caches. We frequently walk the trails in Lower Hume Park with our leashed dog since she’s not really dog park material (side note: that link is another Tenth article I wrote some time ago about our city’s animal control bylaws – I’m pleased to see that they have since overhauled the animal control bylaws and have repealed BSL!). I’ve also found myself keeping my eyes on the ever-changing shores of the Brunette River that runs through Hume Park, and checking out the herons and other birds that hang out there. So, when a recent media release from the New Westminster Parks, Culture and Recreation department made its way into my inbox that mentioned “my” park, I was keen to see what they were up to.

And it’s pretty cool: New Westminster Parks, Culture, and Recreation department has partnered with Evergreen to launch a two year Parks Stewardship Program called “Uncover Your Creeks: Citizen Science” in Lower Hume Park. This is a free, all-ages program, and it kicks off this Sunday, June 16th. During the program, participants will learn about local ecology, help manage invasive plants, plant native plants, and monitor water quality in the Brunette River. The release states:

The Brunette River watershed is shared between the municipalities of Burnaby, Vancouver, Coquitlam, New Westminster and Port Moody. The watershed is 80% urbanized and is home to 175,000 people. In much of the 20% of the watershed that is made of up of green space, invasive plants are a threat to the urban ecology and biodiversity that support native plant and animal species. Through “Uncover Your Creeks: Citizen Science”, the urban ecosystem will be rehabilitated by removing invasive plant species such as Blackberry, Ivy and Lamium and planting native species such as Salmonberry and Red-Osier Dogwood.

The program runs for the next two years, occuring monthly on the third Sunday of the month. Citizen science training and activities will be offered from 10am to 12pm at each session. Sessions are drop-in but registration would be appreciated so the enough tools and gloves can be prepared. For info, or to register, contact Sharon Johal at sjohal@evergreen.ca or 604.689.0766 ext. 226. The group will meet at the Lower Hume Park picnic shelter (enter off E Columbia, just east of Holmes Street).

 

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What does a ‘sustainable’ future look like for New West? [Update on Envision 2032]

Lots of great ideas came out of Envision 2032's Sustainability Fair in November. Photo: Julia Dykstra

Lots of great ideas came out of Envision 2032′s Sustainability Fair in November. Photo: Julia Dykstra

The City of New Westminster is creating its first sustainability plan, dubbed Envision 2032. The year 2032 is one generation from now – a length of time that is easy for people to imagine when making decisions that affect the future. When completed, Envision 2032 will be a sustainability “lens,” used to review plans, policies, projects and practices.

A Sustainability Fair was held at the Inn at the Quay in November as part of the Envision 2032 process. Those who could not attend the workshop were able to provide input via an online survey as well as view  presentations and video clips from the event on the Envision 2032 website.

The feedback from the initial community outreach was analyzed by the City’s sustainability team to identify key themes and an initial set of “Descriptions of Success” has now been created for discussion purposes that are intended to reflect the consensus for these themes in each policy area. Once reviewed by the community and feedback is addressed, updated Descriptions of Success will be provided to City Council for consideration. When they are approved, the Descriptions of Success will form the foundation of Envision 2032, describing the sustainable future that we will all be working towards. You can provide feedback on the Descriptions of Success online via an online survey (note: survey closes on March 15).

Participation in November’s community outreach events was strong. With over 90 people at the Friday evening “Let’s Talk Sustainability” event and 80 people at the Saturday morning sustainability visioning workshop, Sustainability Fair events were well attended in spite of the gloomy weather outside. A further 90 people provided input online as well.

The audience for “Let’s Talk Sustainability” included Council members and representatives of the City’s social, cultural, business and environmental communities, along with a healthy contingent of interested individuals. Participants were treated to innovative video shorts on sustainability and an eclectic mix of speakers providing insights on different aspects of sustainability, including:

  • Lori Baxter, former manager of the 2010 Legacies Now arts program for the Vancouver Olympics and executive director of the Greater Vancouver Alliance for Arts and Culture, stressed the importance of arts, culture and heritage in creating vibrant communities.
  • Judith Cullington, City of Colwood Councillor, explained how the “Solar Colwood” initiative was implemented using a community outreach and engagement process involving multiple community partners.
  • Jerry Dobrovolny, Director of Transportation for the City of Vancouver and former City Councillor for New Westminster, described the steps leading to Vancouver’s success with integrating land use and transportation and achieving transformational change through the use of targets.
  • Darlene Gering, President of 2012 BC Seniors Games, Chair of the Burnaby Art Gallery and former President and CEO of the Burnaby Board of Trade, focused on applying triple bottom line thinking (i.e., social, cultural, economic and environmental) into decision making, including social enterprises.
  • Patrick Johnstone, a municipal Environmental Coordinator and past-president of the New Westminster Environmental Partners, challenged the audience to take strong action, both individually and collectively, to protect and enhance the environment in the context New Westminster’s urban setting.
  • Virginia Weiler, Chair of VanCity, outlined the role of business and the financial sector in creating a sustainable community and provided an example of how VanCity uses community sustainability in its lending practices

At the Saturday visioning workshop, there was a high level of understanding and support for what Envision 2032 is (i.e., a sustainability “filter” or “lens” that will be applied to what we do in the future) and how the process steps work:

  1. Decide where we want to be in the future
  2. Determine where we are now
  3. Identify actions to move us from where we are now to where we want to be
  4. Track and report on progress towards our desired future using key indicators

Workshop participants had an opportunity to attend two visioning sessions for the eleven defined policy areas, covering everything from land use to transportation, culture, the economy, social issues and the environment and answer the basic question: “What does it look like in 2032 if we are successful and sustainable in this policy area?” This simple exercise unleashed a wave of creativity and for over two hours post-it notes with hundreds of vision statements were flying around the room.

After the workshop, an online version of the visioning exercise was available for another month and responses from 90 people were received. Between the workshop and the survey, over 80 pages of visioning input from the community were documented and this is available on envision2032.ca.

We need your help now to let us know if we’ve captured the right vision for New Westminster! An online Description of Success survey will take you through each of the eleven policy areas and provide you with the opportunity to review, confirm or enhance the vision. You can provide input on as many or as few of the policy areas as you’d like.

The survey closes on March 15th, 2013, so don’t delay, we want to hear from you!

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Sustainability in New West: envisioning our future at Nov. 2 & 3 event

Envision 2032

Envision 2032 is the name of the City of New Westminster’s sustainability framework that will guide City planning. 2032 represents one generation from now – a length of time that is easy for people to imagine when making decisions that affect the future.

This is a guest post by Mark Allison, a Senior Planner with the City of New Westminster who is coordinating the team working on the Envision 2032 process. He has led a number of award-winning sustainability plans in communities around BC and was formerly the Senior Planner and Manager of Advisory Services for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

What exactly is sustainability?! The word has been thrown around so much in recent years that it’s been interpreted many ways. We’ve chosen to adapt a well-known 1987 definition created by the United Nations that is broadly accepted around the world:

“Sustainability” is meeting the needs of the present generation in terms of social and cultural needs, the economy and the environment while promoting a high quality of life but without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

New Westminster’s 2012-2014 Strategic Plan created a focus on building a high and sustainable quality of life for its residents and called for the creation of a sustainability framework, or “Sustainability Lens,” to “guide and test all future decisions and initiatives against balanced economic, social/cultural and environmental perspectives.” Envision 2032 is the name that’s been given this sustainability framework and it is intended to become the guiding policy document for the City.

ICSP sustainability lens

New Westminster’s 2012-2014 Strategic Plan created a focus on building a high and sustainable quality of life for its residents and called for the creation of a sustainability framework, or “Sustainability Lens,” to “guide and test all future decisions and initiatives against balanced economic, social/cultural and environmental perspectives.” Envision 2032 is the name that’s been given this sustainability framework and it is intended to become the guiding policy document for the City.

If you’ve been around the City for a while, you may recall that “Envision” was the name of our 1998 Official Community Plan. We thought that the name was still applicable, since sustainability planning is all about visioning the future that you want and then taking the steps you need to get there. The “2032” in Envision 2032 is the year 2032… one generation from now. While we usually think several generations ahead when planning for the future, one generation is what most people can wrap their heads around. It’s roughly the time between a child being born and the time that they become an adult ready for independence. Most people can imagine that length of time, so we thought it would be a good timeframe for the plan.

So why are we doing a sustainability plan now? Well, besides providing a logical, consistent way to move towards our desired future, most would agree that our region and the world are facing some enormous sustainability challenges to address in the social, economic and environmental areas. The idea of “think globally, act locally” is definitely fitting.

Socially, New Westminster is in a unique situation when it comes to age demographic shifts, the so-called “baby boomer tsunami.” Not only are we going to have thousands more school-age children in 20 years, we’re projected to have tens of thousands more seniors living in the community by then. It’s going to be a huge challenge to provide the schools, and the recreation, housing and health care needs of these residents.

Economically, it’s probably safe to say that most people are either concerned or very concerned about whether there will be jobs for them and their children in the future, whether their pensions will be enough to live on or whether they’ll be able to afford to buy their own home. With a global economic meltdown just a few years ago and countries all over the world close to defaulting on their debts, there’s a strong desire for communities to create strong and diversified local economies and employment opportunities.

Finally, while often overshadowed by economic concerns, it’s hard to ignore the looming environmental crises facing the planet. Many scientists, for example, say that we may already be at the tipping point where greenhouse gas concentrations may cause runaway climate change at the same time that demand for fossil fuels seems insatiable with supplies dwindling.

Sustainability encompasses not just environmental concerns, but also social and economic.

Sustainability encompasses not just environmental concerns, but also social and economic.

What can New Westminster do in the face of these challenges? Quite a lot! While communities can’t do everything on their own and local governments get the smallest piece of the government revenue pie (while having to provide most of services that people need day-to-day!), communities are where most sustainability action starts. Communities and local school boards provide the playgrounds, schools and seniors centres. Small, local businesses create the majority of jobs in Canada. Local governments facilitate affordable housing and the way that we design our communities is a major determinant of resource use and whether people will drive or use more sustainable transportation modes… local governments provide the sidewalks, bike paths and transit shelters that encourage walking, cycling or taking the bus.

While creating a long-range plan for everything that’s involved in moving a community of 60,000+ 20 years into a successful and sustainable future can be a daunting task, there’s luckily a number of existing models that we can follow. There are a number of basic steps:

  1. Create an awareness of sustainability in the community… like writing this blog!
  2. Identify all of the policy areas where you can influence sustainability.
  3. Create a vision of what the desired future looks like in each of those areas.
  4. Determine where you are now in each area.
  5. Work together with community partners to create actions that move you from where you are now to where you want to be in the future.
  6. Select key indicators and regularly monitor and report on progress towards the desired future.

Eleven policy areas have been identified, which we think covers most things:

  • Buildings, Sites and Urban Design
  • Individual and Community Well-Being
  • Economy and Employment
  • Energy and Emissions
  • Environment and Natural Areas
  • Heritage and Neighbourhood Character
  • Affordable and Appropriate Housing
  • Land Use and Development
  • Parks, Culture and Recreation
  • Resources, Waste and Infrastructure
  • Transportation and Accessibility

The next step is visioning and creating a concise set of statements that describe the desired future in each of these policy areas. This will be the focus of the Envision 2032 Sustainability Fair events being held at the Inn at the Quay on the evening of Friday, November 2nd and the morning of Saturday, November 3rd:

The first event, on November 2, 7-9:15pm,  is “Let’s Talk Sustainability.” This inspirational evening will introduce the Envision 2032 process and features an exciting lineup of engaging speakers who are leaders in the sustainability field. Doors will open at 6:30 for refreshments and networking.

The following day, November 3 from 9 am – 1 pm we’ll be presenting an interactive workshop, “Envision New Westminster,” where the vision statements that will form the foundation of Envision 2032 will be created. Participants will be able to attend breakout sessions for two different policy areas. Doors will open at 8:30 for refreshments and networking and a light working lunch will be served at noon.

It’s important for anyone wanting to help define the future that the City will be working towards, which will be the foundation of Envision 2032, to attend these events and provide us with your vision.

For more information on the process, to provide feedback and to register for Sustainability Fair events, visit www.envision2032.ca or send us an e-mail at envision2032@newwestcity.ca… and of course you can also follow the process at www.facebook.com/envision2032 and www.twitter.com/envision2032.

We’ll also provide you with regular updates on this site to keep you in the loop!

 

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Second Annual New Westminster DocFest this weekend

New West Doc Fest, October 19 & 20 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College (700 Royal Ave.)

New West Doc Fest, October 19 & 20 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College (700 Royal Ave.)

Did you know that New Westminster hosts an annual documentary film festival? The second annual New West DocFest is coming up this weekend, October 19 & 20, at Douglas College’s Laura C. Muir Theatre.

The festival opens on Friday evening with a presentation by guest speaker Mark Jaccard, a professor at SFU, followed by the screening of Chasing Ice. This year’s films cover a range of topics including the environment (Chasing Ice and White Water Black Gold), women in India (The World Before Her), the video game industry (Indie Game the Movie), and the power of corporations (Big Boys Gone Bananas).

In addition to the program of critically acclaimed documentaries, the festival also incorporates music, theatre and art. Short theatrical performances throughout the festival will be presented by Act Now, a youth theatre group focused on sustainability.

As a fairly new event in New Westminster, this will be a critical year to determine the long-term viability of the event. According to one of the event organizers, Andrew Murray, the vision for the festival is to become more than just a local event: “We want to create an event that is unique to New West that will not only draw people locally but also throughout the Lower Mainland.”

Admission is just $7 per film ($5 for students and seniors). For more information, visit www.newwestdocfest.ca.

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Dumped Mattresses KVT Photography

Show Your Love for the Fraser River: Join the New West Shoreline Cleanup

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup™ is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems.

This year on Sunday, Sept 23, the South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup—to register, click on the link— will launch the beginning of New Westminster’s RiverFest, an art and environmental festival inspired by the Fraser River.

The Cleanup is a family friendly event, open to everyone who welcomes taking care of our shoreline. And this year, participants can show their love for the shoreline in a few different ways.

Previously Non-Recyclable Items

Throughout Canada, waste from cigarettes remains the top cleanup item collected. Last year approximately 350,000 were removed from our shorelines. This year—for the first time—all cigarette butts picked up from the New West cleanup will be sent to TerraCycle, a company that specializes in recycling previously non-recyclable items, such as pens, inkjet cartridges, and Tassimo coffee, tea, espresso, milk and hot chocolate T Discs.

In New Westminster, Nestlé candy wrappers and empty containers from Garnier® personal care and beauty products can be taken directly to London Drugs. TerraCycle Canada will then recycle these items into park benches, waste bins and more!

Styrofoam, another previously non-recycled item, was also one of the top items collected at last year’s cleanup. This year, with the launch of Styrofoam collection at the New Westminster Recycling Depot, other recyclable items collected during the cleanup, including Styrofoam and paint cans, will be picked up by the City Of New Westminster for recycling.

Removing litter, however, is just one way that participants can show their love for our shoreline.

Invasive Plant Pull

Kids and adults can also take part in an invasive plant pull of non-toxic plants.

This year participants can take part in removing holly, Lamium, morning glory, purple loosestrife, Scotch broom, and another patch of English ivy—check out the photo from last year’s plant pull.

Plants are considered invasive for a few reasons. One reason is because people or animals have brought them from their original natural habitat to a different one. These non-native plants become invasive depending on their adaptability—how quickly they can grow and multiply in the new habitat.

When non-native plants grow quickly, they take over and force native plants from their home. They rob them of their space, sunlight, water, and nutrients. Over time, these invasive plants change and damage the conditions of the natural habitat. For these reasons, invasive plants are carefully removed to not spread their seeds or other plant parts that can regrow from special habitats like—our Fraser River shoreline.*(Definition from For Peat’s Sake: The Story of Burns Bog, available at the NWPL)

For those of us who love the taste of blackberries, it can be hard to learn that the Himalayan blackberry is considered an invasive plant (Invasive Species Council of British Columbia). It’s dense thicket and thorny stems can be hazardous to humans and animals alike. The plant can also out-compete native shrubs with deep roots that can provide stability along the shoreline. To minimize the hazard of the plant’s long shoots, Jennifer Lukianchuk, Environmental Coordinator from the City of New Westminster, and Cindy Sale, Communication and Events Coordinator from the Fraser River Discovery Centre, are going to show their love for the shoreline by putting on safety equipment to prune off some of the more exposed shoots.

South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup and Invasive Plant Pull

The Shoreline Cleanup starts from 9:30 AM at the pier at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster. Participants under 19 are welcome but must attend with their parent or guardian or bring the signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.

Please bring boots that can get muddy and wear pants to protect yourself from the shrubs that grow nearby. Bring either a pen to help with data collection or tongs (some will be supplied by the City) to pick up litter, and snacks and water for yourself.

The South Dyke Road Riverfront Cleanup is organized by New Westminster Environmental Partners (NWEP) in partnership with the City of New Westminster and Fraser River Discover Centre.

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Family-friendly Pattullo rally planned at TransLink open house June 23

Pattullo rally poster

Pattullo rally poster

Opinion polling in New Westminster is pretty clear: New Westminster does not want a six-lane replacement to the Pattullo Bridge. TransLink’s public consultation in our community, however, has assumed six lanes as a given. Clearly, New West and TransLink are not seeing eye to eye.

New Westminsterites concerned about air quality, livability, pedestrian safety and environmental impacts of increasing traffic through our already congested city have organized a rally for the whole family in response to TransLink’s Pattullo Bridge Open House at Sapperton Pensioner’s Hall this Saturday, June 23. Supporters include New Westminster school trustees Jonina Campbell and David Phelan, the Surrey Citizens Transportation Initiative and New Westminster Environmental Partners.

Rally organizers believe TransLink’s public consultation process was unfair and that building a bigger Pattullo goes against TransLink’s own transportation strategy, which centres on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging development of communities designed for transit, cycling and walking. In previous open houses, TransLink has asked for public input on specific questions about planning details related to location and connections for a six-lane bridge, not whether a six-lane bridge is the right solution for our communities.

In the invitation to the event, organizers invite parents to bring their kids, bicycles and bubble-blowers, and participants are asked to keep messages “constructive, welcoming and focused on the issues.” Signs prepared for the event will include slogans like, “No 6-Lane Bridge,” to specifically reference TransLink’s current plans and “Give Surrey Transit Now!,” which is in keeping with their Transport 2040 Goals. Others will include: “Stop Driving Climate Change,” “A Good Planet is Hard to Find,” “Less Traffic=Safer Streets,” “TransLink: Put Our $ Where Our Public Transit Should Be,” “Plan Past Peak Oil: It’s Time to Think outside the Barrel” “Think Lions Gate”, “TransLink: We Need to Talk!” and “Stop Pushing Car Dependency.”

The rally will begin in Sapperton Park, rain or shine, at 9:30am to walk to the TransLink open house together with signs and letters to the TransLink Board. There will also be activities for children during the brief event.

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Volunteers needed to help remove invasive plants from Hume Park this Saturday

In my ignorant pre-gardening days, I extended my politically correct Canadian sensitivity training to the world of flora and fauna. I admired the spunk of dandelions growing in the crack between the sidewalk and the curb, the beauty of the morning glories twining in the hedge and the hardiness of blackberry bushes crowding parked cars in the back lane. I felt guilty pulling weeds. After all, didn’t they have just as much right to life as any other plant?

Then I planted mint in my garden. I love mint, so I was pleased to see how fast it grew! Until it began to take over. Along with the dandelions and morning glory. Thankfully, we have no blackberries!

So, now I know, not every plant that can grow in a place should grow there.

A couple of weeks ago, on April 14, the City of New Westminster began work with a crew of volunteers to help re-habitat Lower Hume Park by replacing invasive species with native species. A second rain or shine work bee is planned for this Saturday, April 28th, and they’ve put out a call for more volunteers to help.

Invasive plants are spread through illegal dumping of garden waste and seeds or dispersal by wildlife and wind, causing ecological destruction. This project will help prevent and control the spread of invasive plants while protecting the ecological integrity of our parks. Good boots, comfortable clothing and registration (at the office) are required.

What to know if you want to go:

  • WHEN: Saturday April 28th (Rain or Shine)
  • TIME: 1pm – 4pm
  • WHERE: Lower Hume Park, New Westminster
  • WHAT: Celebrate Earth Day: Invasive Plant Removal and Native Replanting. In Intergenerational Event
  • WHO: New Westminster residents age 13+
  • REGISTRATION: Call 604-519-1066 Pre registration is mandatory. This is a free event.
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Small acts of community in our own little garbage patch

The Lamb on the Quay boardwalk. Photo: Laura Schneider.

The Lamb on the Quay boardwalk. Photo: Laura Schneider.

The other day I noticed a bunch of Canadian geese down at the Fraser River Styrofoam patch. Why, I wondered, would they prefer to toddle here rather than fly south for the winter? More importantly, I wondered why was no one cleaning this mess up.

The area in question is home to a bunch of stray logs that get jammed into a small grassy, muddy alcove making it a perfect catchall for all kinds of debris.

These logs, which look natural and quite fetching tangle themselves up with those nasties; large pieces of Styrofoam, their offspring chunks and worst of all those pellet sized eggballs that are near impossible to pick up.

I think we all know that Styrofoam is bad and unsightly on our shoreline, but why is it so bad?

Well aside from those crumbling little eggballs that birds and other wildlife seem to find so tasty and then get sick from because it blocks their digestive system which ultimately causes starvation, new research shows that contrary to popular belief, plastic and its chemically gassy, blown-up sibling Styrofoam may actually be breaking down in as little as one year, if the conditions are right.

So the good news is that plastics may be breaking down in no time; the bad news is that these plastics may be releasing all their unpronounceable and potentially toxic chemicals in to our water system a whole lot sooner than we thought.

Well thank goodness none of us drink from the Fraser.

Garbage bagged in a one-person, one-day cleanup at the Quay included about 15 pounds of waterlogged Styrofoam, plastic and glass bottles, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and, oddly, a coconut. Photo: Laura Schneider.

Garbage bagged in a one-person, one-day cleanup at the Quay included about 15 pounds of waterlogged Styrofoam, plastic and glass bottles, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and, oddly, a coconut. Photo: Laura Schneider.

And as an aside… why don’t we recycle Styrofoam? As it turns out, no one wants to. Apparently, it can’t be made into much except plastic lunch trays and packing material and it costs a lot to do that. Additionally, the pollution generated by making these lunch trays etc. is far more than making them from scratch.

So anyway, back to the garbage patch that my dog Lamb and I have been walking past for years. It’s interesting because it changes. I’ve seen some really big stuff in there. I once crawled down to investigate an industrial cooler that was about three quarters the size of a refrigerator. My mischievous self wondered if wasn’t big enough to contain a body or some other nastiness.

Anyway this stuff does occasionally appear and surprisingly disappear, but not often enough for my liking. So today I put on my boots, a warm winter coat and red rubber gloves. I grabbed my rake, garbage bags and the Lamb and off we went to clean the mess up.

Lamb in tow, I tossed her over the rail, in order that she may have a good spot for supervising. The idea being that if I fell in or hurt myself she’d sound the alarm.

Once down there you become aware that it isn’t just Styrofoam, it’s all kinds of stuff. And in keeping with the recent Queensborough Shoreline Clean Up initiative held this past September, I think that it’s really important we document my findings.

Here is a list of what I found: lots of Styrofoam, about 15 water logged pounds worth, plastic and glass bottles, some of which were alcoholic and surprisingly still contained remnants inside, cigarette butts, newspapers, a mountain dew box, plastic bags, rope, drink caps, tampon applicators, both paper and plastic, tons of those little wrappers that cover mints you get when you leave the Boat House and of all things a coconut, which I left there.

The interesting thing is that many of these items start to look like natural detritus, which I think, is a plus, to some degree. A while back I was in Hawaii taking pictures of shoreline garbage, which is virtually unnoticeable until you get close. In part because wave erosion, salt and sun convert it to look like everything else in the environment. What a coup.

Again, back to the Quay… so a few people walked by and asked what I was up to, in fact, one person took photographs, as if this was something amazing or covert. I explained that I was taking half an hour out of my day and putting it toward my own personal community initiative. I was going to pick up garbage and report my findings.

In closing, I would like to challenge all New Westmintonians to make their own community initiative. Find something to do that gives back to the community and report back. I’d love to hear from you.

In the words of Noam Chomsky

“We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”

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NWEP hosting AGM and Energy Resiliency and Energy Transition Planning Forum

2011 NWEP AGM Poster

2011 NWEP AGM Poster

Never heard of energy resiliency or energy transition planning?  Neither had I until a few weeks ago, however will become a growing topic of importance in New Westminster over the coming years.

New Westminster Environmental Partners (NWEP) would like to invite the public to learn more at a forum on Energy Resiliency and Energy Transition Planning on Monday December 5th. This forum will be preceded by the NWEP’s Annual General Meeting and election of directors for 2012. The AGM will start at 6:00 with the public forum presentations starting after 6:30pm. The event will take place at the New Westminster River Market.

The economy is foremost in most people’s minds these days as news of a possible financial meltdown in the European Union mingle with the spectre of out-of-control debt in the USA, and uncertainty how these events might impact Canada’s export-based economy. Just below the surface is the awareness of ever increasing energy prices. While the prospects for the   development of new energy sources remain good, more of these new supplies will go towards the growing appetite in developing countries, leaving ever-depleting traditional sources on which our economy has depended. The environmental costs of these new sources of energy – tar sands extraction, natural gas fracking, pipelines and tankers, – are significant, though typically out of sight of consumers. Yet, the bill has yet to come in for our green house gas emissions, and their impacts on climate change. The net effect is the end of traditional sources of cheap, abundant and reliable energy to power our economy into the next generation. We will be less able to control the price and impacts of our own energy supply. The resulting social impacts of energy uncertainty range from the cost of living, quality of life and the types of employment which are generally available.

Energy is at the heart of the sustainability agenda promoted by the NWEP and binds sustainability’s three pillars of environment, economy, and society. Increasingly, policy makers are speaking of the need for “energy resiliency” in our society, and the need to plan an orderly transition to a less energy intensive economy. In 2011 the City of New Westminster embarked upon a Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP). The CEEP aims to put in place programs and practices which enable residents, businesses and the City Corporation to reduce their energy consumption and green house gas emissions over the next 20 years to significantly below 2007 levels while at the same time growing in population, employment and business activity. The impacts of such a plan can have a profound influence on how we live, move about, carry out business and the types of employment we might find in the City 20 years from now.

The NWEP supports the City’s CEEP developments and would like to promote Energy Resiliency and Energy Transition Planning as topics to engage and promote in 2012. For our AGM public forum we have invited two local speakers with significant experience on energy, energy policy and energy transition solutions. Together our speakers have considerable experience on transportation and building energy use, by far the two greatest demands for energy and sources of green house gas emissions in New Westminster.

Leading the evening will be Stuart Ramsey, a transportation engineer with over 25 years of experience working in the private and public sectors and has focused on urban transportation issues in Metro Vancouver for several years. Mr. Ramsey was involved with research for a local municipal report which was the first “peak oil” report to be received by any government in Canada. He is a regular speaker on transportation topics.

The second speaker will be Steven Bishop, a curriculum developer and instructor with the Building Energy and Resource Management Program at Douglas College, and a consultant for sustainable building practices. Mr. Bishop has 35 years experience in the building industry in roles ranging from residential builder to commercial and institutional construction project management. He is an accredited professional LEED sustainable building advisor and is currently involved with designing the curriculum for the Provincial Instructors Diploma program for sustainable building advisors.

The presentations will be followed by Q&A and open discussion about the evening’s topics.

To learn more about NWEP and other issues we’re addressing visit our website at http://nwep.ca

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The candidates weigh in: what to do about the Pattullo?

The Pattullo Bridge. Photo: Gord McKenna

The Pattullo Bridge. Photo: Gord McKenna

This is the third in a series of articles sharing highlights from NWEP’s mayor and council candidates questionnaire on environmental issues. The first article in the series shared the mayoral candidates’ takes on “sustainability” in New West, and the second dealt with traffic. The full questionnaire and all candidate responses are on NWEP’s website.

While we shared the candidates’ opinions on traffic issues in our last post in this series, it’s worth taking a little more time to discuss one issue in particular that could have a profound impact on traffic flow in New Westminster: the proposed replacement of the Pattullo Bridge. Unless otherwise indicated, responses are from council candidates.

NWEP asked the candidates: TransLink continues to mull a replacement for the Pattullo Bridge. Would you rather see the bridge repaired, replaced with a 4-lane structure, or replaced with a larger structure? Would you support tolling the bridge to pay for its replacement? If you don’t support replacement, would you support tolling the existing bridge?

Here’s what they said:

Repair the bridge

Susan Wandell
If the bridge is not structurally sound, it should be replaced. If it is safe, it should be changed to a 3 lane bridge operating like the Lions Gate Bridge alternating two lanes direction during rush hours.

Replace the bridge with a 4-lane structure

Vance McFadyen – Mayoral Candidate
Considering the Pattullo Bridge was opened in 1939 (I believe), the considerable amount of money already spent on maintenance/repair and most importantly the many vehicular deaths caused primarily by design and congestion, I would prefer to see it replaced with a well designed 4 lane bridge and tolled.

François Nantel – Mayoral Candidate
They should build a new 4-lane bridge, which would be one way up to McBride, and keep the old one as one way down to King George. All money should come from the Bank of Canada, just printed new money (electronically, like the charter banks do), and build the bridge as an asset of corresponding value, creating no inflation. Same thing should have been done for all capital expenditures. Unfortunately, we have been hoodwinked. In case of an earthquake, may be 1 bridge would do better than the other, keeping a critical link between the shores of the Fraser

Jonathan Cote
If Translink moves ahead with the replacement of the Pattullo Bridge, I would only support a 4 lane structure. New Westminster’s road network is operating near capacity and cannot handle increased traffic. The expansion of the Pattullo Bridge would only induce more traffic into our community and local neighbourhoods.

Vladimir Krasnogor
Until we have a complete picture of costs and other details, replacing with 4-lane seems the most practical solution. I am well aware that members of the community prefer a larger structure, and some people prefer no bridge at all.

Betty McIntosh
A new 4 lane with proper widths would give as much capacity as New Westminster could accomodate with continued tolls

Replace the bridge with a larger structure

Gerry Liu
The issues of the Pattullo Bridge is to replace with a larger structure, and with the bridge construction helped with Federal Funding.

Supports tolls

Vance McFadyen – Mayoral Candidate
I would prefer to see it replaced with a well designed 4 lane bridge and tolled. I cannot honestly comment on tolling the existing bridge unless it is to build funds for the new bridge but I fear it may take too long to accomplish that goal.

Jonathan Cote
Although I have some concerns about the un-coordinated road pricing system that exists in Metro Vancouver, I think it is reasonable that Translink pursue this as an option to finance this project.

Jaimie McEvoy
If other bridges are tolled and a new Pattullo was not, that would encourage more vehicles into New Westminster. I would like to see tolling, but with a low toll or none at all for local residents, promoting the idea of a local bridge for local traffic, which is only one-third of the bridge’s actual total now.

As a SkyTrain rider and transit user myself, it occurs to me that I do pay a toll every time I use public transit. SkyTrain and buses are just as much a part of the transit system our taxes paid for as roads, yet there is a specific toll each and every time. This disincentive to use transit should be eliminated. Public transit is just a way of getting around, just like roads and bridges, and should be free and equally paid for through our taxes.

Betty McIntosh
I think the present bridge should be tolled now to gather funds for a replacement bridge of 4 lanes in the future.

Bob Osterman
We MUST have the Patullo tolled,if we do not, we will become the Fraser crossing of choice and we will be inundated with even yet more traffic.

Susan Wandell
Tolls are a fair way of paying for infrastructure. Tolls are used throughout the Maritimes and are accepted. Once the Gateway project is completed and a toll in place on the Port Mann Bridge, the Pattullo Bridge will have to be tolled in order to protect the liveability of our neighbourhoods from the increase in traffic.

Lorrie Williams
If tolls go up on the Port Mann then they have to go up on the Pattullo.

Opposes tolls

John Ashdown
With the gas and associated government taxes and fees now levied against motorists I am against tolls. The gas tax was brought in decades ago specifically to cover expense of roads and bridges and they continue to rise. Use that tax for it’s intended use. TransLink being constantly in our pockets to cover costs is double dipping as are the board of directors with their TransLink and Mayor’s Salaries.

Other answers

James Crosty – Mayoral Candidate
I support the question going to the public as a referendum after ensuring that all options are presented to the people of New Westminster.

Wayne Wright – Mayoral Candidate
The Pattullo bridge must be replaced and consultation will determine the optimum size. Tolling and road pricing is on the agenda with GVRD and the Province.

John Ashdown
About all you can do with Pattullo bridge to maintain it is, Paint and Patch. Increasing lanes? Not likely by design. It is an old bridge and deserves a place in New West’s history. I am in favour of a new Bridge off United in Coquitlam where it can connect via King Edward to Lougheed and the Stormont connector. Why not build a new bridge and retain the Pattullo for pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and “0” emission electric vehicles.

Jaimie McEvoy
Patullo Bridge as it currently exists is fundamentally unsafe. It does not adequately accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. It was closed for a time because part of it is actually made of wood and it caught fire.

And when it was closed, life continued. The traffic disaster that resulted adjusted after a couple of days.

In my view, it never made a lot of sense to connect a 1930s bridge to a residential street system initially designed for the horse and buggy. It makes less sense to add two more lanes of traffic to a small city where people have to drive through those residential areas before connecting with major roadways.
Two-thirds of the bridge’s traffic is not local at all to New Westminster or North Surrey, but is just passing through to somewhere else. A new Pattullo Bridge could route through North Surrey, and connect with Highway 1 and North Road in Coquitlam. It’s an only an idea, but an idea worth considering.

Any decision on the bridge should not occur before complete environmental and impact assessments on the options, and fair consideration of all of the options.

David Noshad
Issues like this require extensive research and analyzing all the pros and cons. I will base my decision on the best interest of the city, environment and our citizens’ preference.

Gavin Palmer
We need to work with TransLink in dealing with the Pattullo Bridge. It has to be done within the constraints of public funding and whether it is repaired, refurbished or replaced will depend on the overall plan to move traffic through the region. New Westminster is not the dumping ground for the region’s traffic issues and we need to garner better respect from our neighbors. We are the keystone to the region and we deserve better treatment from our regional government not the current lip service our current regime accepts from this body.

Chuck Puchmayr
There is a group called Get Moving BC, which had a report produced by a Voice New Westminster founding director (see Kent Spencer, The Province Published: Monday, September 15, 2008) recommending another 8 lanes of traffic into New Westminster by replacing the Pattullo bridge with an 8 lane structure at the foot of King George. I do not support an 8 lane Pattullo replacement. We can’t keep dumping the regions traffic through our city. When an 8 lane bridge becomes gridlocked, and it will, our neighbourhoods will suffer total gridlock and emergency vehicle response times will become critical.

Lorrie Williams
I don’t know enough about bridges to know if it should be replaced or repaired or expanded.

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Sustainability in New West: What our mayoral candidates think

A bird's-eye view of New Westminster. Photo: Colour, via Flickr.

A bird's-eye view of New Westminster. Photo: Colour, via Flickr.

New Westminster Environmental Partners, in partnership with Tenth to the Fraser, asked all the mayoral and council candidates about environmental issues. NWEP has each candidate’s complete answers on their website, and we will be publishing highlights from the responses over the next week or so. We will begin with the mayoral candidates’ takes on sustainability: how to define the term, local successes and missed opportunities.

All comments that appear below are verbatim from the candidates’ emailed replies.

Sustainability seems to be a common word these days, but its use is often ambiguous. How do you define the word “sustainability”, and how does it relate to the job of a City Councillor or Mayor?

Vance McFadyen:
Sustain/ability to me means to use all possible avenues to maintain and/or improve the good of “something.” As to how it relates to doing a good job as a Mayor or member of Council it means that you need to maintain a good line of communication and openness to a whole variety of issues that concern and affect the citizens and the community as a whole.

François Nantel:
Sustainability is a concept that is in direct conflict with the “forced growth agenda” in which we presently live in. It can be defined as a fine balancing act between inputs, and outputs within a given environment. A lake within a river system is a good example of sustainability up to a point since once in a while the forces of nature will redesign the river system. When inputs are greater than outputs, inflation ensues, and works against the principle of sustainability.

In the case that we are concern with, the financial system need redesigning, and we must take in consideration in its redesigning the maximum ability for human to consume, as well as the maximum added value per earner, as opposed to the psychopathic tendencies of the big corporation having for mandate to make money..

It relates to the mayor since the mayor is in touch with other mayors, and can explore better approaches in developing a sustainable community.

Wayne Wright:
Basically it means “capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe side-effects”. The term can be used in many different contexts such the economy, agriculture, business, health and so on.

For me it is the art of maintaining, as well as progressing forward with services and the needs and wants of citizens that minimizes or lessens our carbon footprint. We are living in an age of consumerism where things are disposable and generate waste. Ideally we should return to a more simple life.

In any city we have to provide many systems like transportation, waste management, and so on. As city management we strive to make these systems as inherently sustainable as possible. In many cases one has to balance different aspects. For example a system might be sustainable in an economic context but not in the context of global warming.

Our Council resolutions for all new buildings, retro buildings, and new business endeavours, include sustainability from the beginning of the projects. As a result our projects are at forefront of sustainability. This can be seen by how many are LEEDS gold certified! Examples include the Youth Centre, the Civic Centre, the Queensborough Community Centre, and the Brewery District development.

A highlight for our staff and City was receiving the Brownie 2011 Award for Sustainable Remediation at Pier Park.

As mayor it is important that I am “present at the table” at talks that might affect our city. To this end I serve on many committees at GVRD level. This allows me to bring back their discussions to our Council for further analysis and appropriate action.

There are different levels of sustainability: at the individual level, society (city, provincial, national), and global levels. Leadership is required at all levels of government to ensure that we are creating a society that sees the value of keeping our world in the best possible social, economic, and environmental shape. Our efforts alone are not sufficient, without the support of the general public sustainability is not achievable.

James Crosty:
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resour

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95 kg of trash collected at Queensborough shoreline cleanup

This is a guest post by Karla Olson, site director of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup event that happened in Queensborough last Sunday.

Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

On Sunday, September 25, the Carter Foreshore Park and the South Dyke Road from Gifford Street to Boundary Road in Queensborough were targeted for cleanup by 28 people who participated in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Even though downpours occurred just before and after, the event was rain free.

Participants came from Delta, Surrey, New Westminster and Vancouver. Local participants included NWSS teachers Axel Krause and Luke Mayba and several of their NWSS environmental club students, Councillors Jonathan Cote and Bill Harper, and NWEP Directors Andrew Murray, Marcel Pitre, and Andrew Feltham (who was also the Invasive Plant-Pull Leader).

Councillor Bill Harper, Rupinder Kaur and Amy Dhatt. Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

Councillor Bill Harper, Rupinder Kaur and Amy Dhatt. Cleaning up the Cleanup: 13 of the 28 participants from the GCSC in New Westminster. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

At first glance, participants wondered what garbage could be found. After 2 hours, starting the list with some of the more unusual items, they found a set of house keys still attached to a backpack, 1 chair, lots of caution tape, a door knob, 3 knickknack statues, a bucket full of hardened cement, a nail clipper, paint cans and lots of garbage: 93 plastic bags, 40 glass beverage bottles, 66 pop cans, 91 food wrappers, 4 bleach containers, 17 buoys, 2 fishing lines, 8 oil bottles, 2 tires, 50 large pieces of Styrofoam, and the number one littered item: 157 cigarette butts found concentrated around the lovely sitting and viewing areas that the City recently put in.

Collecting approximately 95 kg of litter was a bittersweet moment for participants.

Marion Orser and Councillor Jonathan Cote. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

Marion Orser and Councillor Jonathan Cote. Photo: Margaret Macaulay

“I was surprised and disappointed to see how much garbage we actually found,” said Jonathan Cote, Councillor for New Westminster. “We saw everything from paint cans to furniture. Our riverfront is a sensitive environment and we cannot allow it to become a dumping site.”

Cleanups can be difficult because success can really feel like defeat for the participants. Every person experienced it. When they returned to the gathering area with their bag of collected garbage, they all had big smiles on their faces until the moment they saw the amount of garbage that others had also collected. It was a difficult moment to witness this loss of joy. But no one person could have achieved what we did that day. Seeing the achievement of the group effort and realizing that people can change things makes all the difference.

“It was inspiring to see the diversity of those who participated as well as how many young people showed up. Collectively, in the space of a few hours, a real difference was made and demonstrates what is possible,” said New Westminster Environmental Partners Director Andrew Murray.

Right from the start when people showed up, they could see that the City of New Westminster had loaned us gloves, some tools to collect the garbage, and that they were coming the next day to pick it up made people not only feel better, but supported. To help improve the positive impact we also planned an invasive plant removal at the same time.

“I’ve done many Shoreline Clear Ups before and that was the best attended, most motivated volunteers, and most productive I’ve been to. I really liked that we did the invasives removal,” said invasive plant-pull leader Andrew Feltham. “A nice change from picking up other people’s garbage!”

For 2 hours, participants pulled, dug, and carefully collected every part of the invasive Japanese Knotweed from one area in front of the Suzuki Street viewpoint walkout. So invasive is this plant that it can re-grow if even the smallest stem part is left on the ground. It is for this reason, 6 bags of Knotweed were slated for safe disposal as garbage pickup. Other volunteers freed a nearby Douglas fir from being strangled and possibly toppled by English Ivy, resulting in 4 bags of organic yard waste.

New Westminster can be proud.

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New West Doc Fest fundraiser coming up Sept. 28

On October 21 and 22, New Westminster will be the place to be for documentary film, with the launch of the first annual New West Doc Fest at Douglas College.

The event, organized by New Westminster Environmental Partners and the Green Ideas Network, will feature documentary films focusing on environmental issues, as well as student films from local film school, Pull Focus.

Featured films will include H2OilTappedBurning WaterThe Vanishing of the Bees, and65_red_roses – as well as Q&A’s with speakers such as Fin Donnelly, MP; John Gibeau from the Honeybee Centre; Nimisha Mukerji, the co-director of 65_red_roses; and Matt Horne from the Pembina Institute.

A fundraiser to help with the cost of running this festival is coming up on September 28th at The Heritage Grill (447 Columbia Street). Your $20 ticket entitles you to a choice of one glass house wine or draft beer. Plus choice of chicken, beef, veggie, or lamb burger with salad or fries; or a pasta option. There will also be a silent auction with amazing things donated by local businesses and individuals. Tickets are available at the door or you can buy them online here.  A very worthwhile fundraiser for a great cause.

For more information please visit the festival’s website at http://newwestdocfest.ca/2011/09/fundraiser-september-28th-at-the-heritage-grill/ or check them out on Facebook.

Hope to see you at the fundraiser and at one (or more!) of the film screenings.

Information, schedules, summaries, and ticket info are available on the New West Doc Fest website.

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New West volunteers needed for Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup this weekend

Two plastic pop bottles washed onto the bank of the Fraser River in Queensborough. Photo courtesy NWEP.

Two plastic pop bottles washed onto the bank of the Fraser River in Queensborough. Photo courtesy NWEP.

When I was young and living in Alberta in the 1980’s, I belonged to the Dairy 4-H Club. One of our big projects every year was Highway Clean-up. We picked up garbage on the side of the Highway for probably about 4 hours on a Saturday afternoon. It was amazing to see the amount of garbage that littered the side of the road.

Fast forward to 2011. Have we as humans learned our lesson about littering? It seems that we as a collective whole have not. That is why The Vancouver Aquarium partnered with TD Canada Trust and started the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up, happening this weekend in New Westminster and beyond.

Every year tons of garbage collects on the vast shore lines of Canada and across the world. Marine life eat cigarette butts and get caught in plastic pop rings. Also, plastic never fully decomposes in the water, it breaks down into minute particles, which are then swallowed by fish, and then we consume the fish. We are literally eating our own garbage.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is an annual event that helps keep our oceans, rivers, and lakes healthy. People from all across Canada join in to remove the human-made litter and garbage that was either dumped or accidently deposited into our water systems. This year, with the City of New Westminster, the New West Environmental Partners (NWEP) has committed to taking care of two sections along the Fraser River: the Carter Foreshore Park and the South Dyke Road. There is also a group working on the Central Valley Greenway in Sapperton.

As a volunteer, you can take part in the shoreline cleanup along with an invasive plant pull to help take care of our portion of the Fraser River. The Cleanup is about more than just picking up garbage. An important part is collecting data on the numbers and types of garbage found. As a volunteer, you will see for yourself the types of litter people throw out and which have the highest amounts. Having this data helps people to understand the behaviours that lead to littering and find ways to get people to stop.

Let’s do the environment and ourselves a favour and spend one day picking up garbage along the shoreline. The event runs this weekend, but it’s not too late to sign up.

Please visit: http://shorelinecleanup.ca. There is a search function; just type in New Westminster. There are a few different New West locations that are available for you to sign up with:

On Sunday, September 25, the tide will be low, making it perfect for an hour or two of shoreline clean-up. The City is providing bags and will make sure that the collected trash and invasive plants will be properly taken away and disposed of. All you need to do is show up and make sure you are dressed for the weather and for being outside—boots/shoes that you don’t mind getting a little muddy and pants and long-sleeved shirts/jackets to protect yourself from reeds and tree branches. Participants under age 19 must bring a signed waiver to participate.

Let’s put on our rain boots and gloves for Mother Nature!

Event Details:

  • What: The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup – New Westminster
  • Date: Sunday, September 25
  • Start Time: 9:30AM
  • Meeting Location: walkout at Suzuki Street and S Dyke Road in Queensborough, New Westminster
  • Wear: boots/shoes that can get muddy, long pants, gloves
  • Tools for the Invasive Pull: shovels, pitch forks, pruning shears, hedge clippers—remember to label/mark your tools for identification
  • Good to Have: water, snacks, etc to
  • Participants under 19 must attend with their parent or guardian or bring a signed waiver with them. Waivers can be printed off the website.
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New West Wednesday: Let’s talk trash

The front-page article in today’s Newsleader is about New Westminster’s new green bin program. According to the article, with the introduction of a dedicated bin for food scraps, New Westminster has gone from having a 31 per cent rate of diverting waste from the landfill in 2009 to 59 per cent in the last three months of 2010.

Personally, I love the green bin, and I had been looking forward to the new single-stream recycling bins that are coming (you can toss in all recyclables without having to sort them all), but I see there’s a counter-argument that this approach lowers the quality of the recyclables, which results in a lower price for them on the commodities market (I didn’t even know there was a commodities market for recyclables … shows what I know!). The city is aware of this and has taken the position that more recycling is better (and I think I agree) but it just goes to show that these things are much more complex than they seem.

As I wrote this post I was reminded me of a Freakonomics podcast I listened to once on the subject of trash, which floated some interesting incentives to encourage waste reduction, including charging people for trash pickup based on the volume or weight of the trash their household puts out at the curb. “Pay-as-you-throw” needs to be done carefully if the goal is to increase compliance with trash diversion programs. Some folks in the U.S. live in communities with privatized trash pickup, and because they would have to pay an extra fee for recycling pickup they just don’t bother. At all.

How do you like the green bin program? What do you do to reduce trash? How do you think New West could further reduce garbage sent to the landfill?

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Transit cuts coming to New West

This isn't the first time creeping service cuts have led to the extinction of a New Westminster bus route, does anyone remember the 108 Eighth Ave which slowly was cut into oblivion?

This isn't the first time creeping service cuts have led to the extinction of a New Westminster bus route, does anyone remember the 108 Eighth Ave which slowly was cut into oblivion?

Translink has been undergoing a “service rationalization” process for the past year. This is part of a complete service review the Provincial government has mandated before any consideration is given to approving other revenue streams for Translink.  Until now, this has been a fairly abstract concept when it came to transit services on the road, however as we are about to learn, “rationalization” means cuts to basic services in New Westminster.

On the surface the cuts may look fairly benign: reductions in early morning and evening service levels when buses are nearly empty. However, if one views transit as a holistic system,  these cuts undermine the overall viability of the public transportation system in New Westminster.

The planned “rationalization” will see several local bus routes reduced to 60-minute service in the off hours (101, 154 and 155, as well as smaller cuts to the 123 and Community Shuttle conversion of half the 112). People who rely on transit to actually get places will tell you instead of reducing to once an hour, you might as well save even more money and not run a bus at all, particularly in a city the size of New Westminster where one could walk clear across the city in that amount of time. You’ve instantly eliminated all the casual trips and relegated bus service to only those who can’t afford any other means of transportation, or are physically unable to walk any distance.

Case in point: the shift worker who is coming home from their job in the evening is now faced with a 60-minute wait if they miss their connection by a minute (and heaven forbid if it’s a woman waiting alone at a dark bus stop for an hour). Given this challenge, this worker is far more likely to drive to work, if they can even afford to do so. Transit, for this worker, is no longer an option. You now have a new driver on the road in the afternoon going to their job, adding to congestion and polluting GHGs in to the air.

Or the couple out for dinner with their friends, trying to be responsible by not driving in light of the potential shared a bottle of wine. With a 60-minute wait on their journey home they are much more likely to elect to drive, again contributing to congestion and putting all road users at risk should they misjudge their wine intake over the evening. Every trip home in the evening by a bus rider is a trip taken to somewhere earlier in the day. And let’s be realistic, with the suburban nature of where these “rationalized” routes go, these are going to be riders on their way home from somewhere.

From a transit planning perspective you can see the rationale: 5 people on a bus every 30 minutes, if you make it every 60 minutes that’s 10 people per bus. That logic may work for busy urban routes with short headways; riders will hardly notice a shift from a bus every 8 minutes to a bus every 10 minutes, and they’ll be packed in a little tighter when the bus does arrive. But when you’re talking anything over 30 minutes service it is completely unrealistic to think you’ll maintain all these passengers. Your ridership will decrease at all times of the days because riders won’t be able to depend on the route whenever they need it, the viability of the whole route will be at risk.

The sad part about these cuts is they’re not even the result of overall system cuts. Instead, there is a shift of service hours from one part of the region to another. We’re taking from Peter to pay Paul, while the appetite of both Peter and Paul are increasing. Rather than build strong transit intergrated and reliable system across the whole region, Translink and the Province have mandated we have a set number of service hours that does not increase with our exploding population and transit usage. We are turning a mediocre transit system across Metro Vancouver into a completely unreliable one for most of the region.

At the same time that Translink is diluting our regional transit services by not keeping up with growing demand, they’re committing hundreds of millions of dollars to boondoggle projects such as the United Boulevard Extension (a road expansion that directly competes with existing transit infrastructure, and a project Translink can’t even afford even if it were approved) and the Golden Ears Bridge (which has failed to meet traffic expectations, and will now cost millions in pay-out to guarantee the profit of the private partner, draining much-needed funds from other operations). Meanwhile, the Evergreen Line remains unfunded and unbuilt nearly two decades after it was first planned.

If Translink is serious about meeting it’s mode shift goals and reducing vehicles on our roads, they, the Board, and the Mayors Council must take a serious look at their priorities. The idea of a zero-growth transit system in a region growing by thousands of residents per month while simultaneously funding unneeded and unaffordable road building mega-projects, is a serious misjudgement. Metro Vancouver deserves better and New Westminster deserves better, and we need our mayor and council to send a strong message that any cuts to New Westminster bus services are unacceptable. We need to be growing public transit, not shrinking and diluting it.

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Multi-family recycling numbers can no longer be ignored

This is a guest post by Matt Lorenzi. Matt is a New Westminster resident. He volunteers with the New Westminster Environmental Partners and sits on his building’s strata council.

Garbage in a BFI truck. Photo: Matt Lorenzi

Garbage in a BFI truck. Photo: Matt Lorenzi

The issue of garbage and recycling rates in multi-family dwellings is finally being addressed by Metro Vancouver.

The region’s Zero Waste targets are for 70% trash diversion by 2015. Single family homes are well on their way with 55% diversion, but multi-family lags far behind with an estimated 16% diversion.

So why such a disparity from multi-family to single-family? A number of New Westminster residents gathered at City Hall a few weeks ago to tackle this very issue. The results of the evening’s findings were numerous; everything from garbage chutes, poor signage, lack of containers, and language barriers were touted as reasons hindering recycling.

Municipalities and Metro Vancouver share some blame in these low participation rates. In many municipalities the collection of waste and recyclables from multi-family dwellings has been offloaded to private operators. While this in itself is not the problem, it does make it fairly easy to pass the burden of education and enforcement onto strata councils, building managers and the private haulers.

It appears the industry is starting to take matters into their own hands. One of the larger haulers is soon to install cameras on their trucks which will allow them to audit the garbage at the point of pickup. If the load is contaminated with too large a number of banned items, the resulting fine can be billed back to the building from where it was picked up. This same company stated that they incurred $600,000 in fines from Metro Vancouver due to contaminated waste. Clearly they are not interested in absorbing this cost alone. The result will be more responsibility for each building and in turn for each resident.

So what are the barriers to getting better participation in multi-family buildings? One of them main complaints is a lack of space. It takes a certain amount of commitment to put aside space in your suite to sort and collect. Buildings also have to make it easier and more convenient to participate. Many recycling rooms are out of the way and once you get there the bins are often full. There are some creative solutions being looked at; for example collection could be handled on each floor or in front of each suite using individual sized blue bins.

One of the greatest challenges living in a multi-family building is personal accountability. While costs for garbage removal is gathered through strata fees, individual behaviour is not factored into the equation. There is nothing stopping me from creating as much waste, or using as much hot water as I wish. The challenge is bringing everyone on board and having everyone behave in a similar manner. Barring a change in the way personal accountability is handled, education and behavoir change is the best bet in improving results.

The bottom line is that every year the cost of disposing garbage at a Metro Vancouver transfer station is expected to go up. This cost will be handed back to whomever produced it; be that a business, single-family home, or multi-family building. The days of cheap garbage removal are behind us and a more proactive, equitable approach to dealing with it is the only way forward.

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The United Boulevard Extension is back!

Straight and relatively free flowing Lougheed and Trans-Canada Hwy versus narrower, curing, traffic light filled United Blvd

Straight and relatively free flowing Lougheed and Trans-Canada Hwy versus narrower, curing, traffic light filled United Blvd

We’ve all seen the movie before. Just when the village was taking a breath, confident that after a long struggle they’d finally killed the monster… Surprise! It’s still alive!

For those who haven’t yet heard, Translink is back with a new round of consultations on the Highway Nobody Wants.  The first in a series of United Boulevard Extension workshops is this Saturday, 9:30am-12pm at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, 318 Keary Street.

More public consolation was one of New Westminster city council’s requirements for Translink when it put the brakes on the project earlier this year. So good for Translink in organizing this very comprehensive series of workshops to engage citizens on this large infrastructure project. They’re planning a series of 6 half-day workshops that will really take the public through from their concerns to visioning alternative designs.

Unfortunately, the other requirement Council put on Translink was not embraced by Translink: that the North Fraser Perimeter Road be planned and built as a whole project, not a piecemeal with the United Boulevard Extension being built years (or decades) prior to the rest. Which raises the question of why is Translink dragging it’s poor staff members to what are probably very expensive consultations for a project that simply won’t be approved by New Westminster because it still doesn’t meet their clearly-stated requirements? It seems like a fool’s errand, and a waste of money; something Translink isn’t exactly rolling in right now.

New Westminster Environmental Partners’ transportation sub-committee met last weekend to discuss the upcoming workshops, and every time we think about and discuss this project, new questions continue to pop up.

We began discussing this project as part of the bigger picture of the Gateway Project, and in relation to the King Edward Overpass project. By our count, when all these projects are completed, there will be 16 lanes of road running parallel to United Boulevard only a few hundred metres away. That’s 10 on the Trans-Canada Highway and 6 on Lougheed: an enormous increase in capacity.

It is also apparent looking at a map that these three roads are designed quite differently. Highway 1 is a straight, wide, with no traffic lights slowing vehicle free-flow (one of Translink’s stated reasons why they didn’t like “Option A” for the UBE is because it involved a traffic light). Lougheed Highway (note the word highway in it’s name) is another wide, straight road with few traffic lights. United Boulevard, on the other hand, is relatively narrow, barely wide enough for 4 lanes, and definitely not wide enough to accommodate the bicycle and pedestrian improvements Translink has promised. It’s also quite curvy, with a significant number of traffic lights, poor sight lines, and perpendicular driveways emerging on to it. It’s a local access road, not a connector road for hundreds of trucks per day. And with all the driveways emerging on to it, it would become a very dangerous road with a significant increase in car and truck traffic, unless all the businesses along United are willing to have their driveways closed off. We’ve all seen the traffic back-ups just to dump trash at Wastetech!

Wide, straight Lougheed Highway, this looks more like a truck route.

Wide, straight Lougheed Highway, this looks more like a truck route.

So why route the North Fraser Perimeter Road, a purportedly regional truck through-fare, along United Boulevard?  At this point the NFPR west of Mary Hill is just a grey line on a map, nothing’s been built. It would certainly be a lot safer and cheaper to shift that grey line to one of the two recently upgraded, wide, relatively free-flowing roads parallel to United Boulevard!

Narrower United Blvd full of driveways and traffic light, not ideal for free flowing traffic.

Narrower United Blvd full of driveways and traffic light, not ideal for free flowing traffic.

But what about Braid and Brunette?  The choke point Translink keeps telling us about?  The light causes traffic to back up (or acts as a valve for traffic in to New West some might say) and prevents it from reaching these wide, straight roads that are being built just across the border in Coquitlam. Wouldn’t, logic suggest we first try to fix the intersection?

Another observation that came out of the meeting was how this traffic light operates. When a train passes through the intersection, traffic in all directions comes to a grinding halt. You might ask “why does all the traffic stop when the train only intersects one side of Braid?” The simple answer is, for safety reasons, when a train approaches the level crossing the lights automatically go in to green for only the cars exiting the Sapperton Industrial Area, in order to clear the cars any vehicles that which are illegally blocking the crossing. Then the lights stay that way, forever, or until the train passes, whichever comes first.

Now we have identified one of the main “flow problems” at the intersection beside a very busy rail corridor: for safety reasons the cars illegally stopped on the crossing need to be cleared. However, after the crossing is clear, can we not get the traffic on Brunette flowing again? Get those cars and trucks over to the new, wide, straight freeway, rather than sitting there watching a train go past beside them.

Translink continues to say this $160-180 million project is about getting traffic flowing (except when they say it is about “goods movement”), but we contend there are cheaper, less invasive ways to do so, without even considering the previous discussion about reducing demand rather than trying to build our way out of congestion. With their ongoing tunnel vision regarding the United Boulevard Extension, it seems the only “flow problem” Translink is trying to solve here is the flow of $65 million of your Federal Tax Dollars.


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United Boulevard Extension: What’s next? (Part 2)

A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road? Photo: Matthew Laird

A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road? Photo: Matthew Laird

Today in part 2 of our series we ask the question: Can the North Fraser Perimeter Road, creating a four lane truck route through New Westminster even be built?

How will that work? Let’s examine the feasibility of the City’s mitigation wish list. A four lane truck route, down Front Street from one end of downtown to the other. Is there enough width between the tracks and existing buildings to build such a road?

There have been mentions of stacking the roads – how does that fit with Provincial dangerous goods regulations? There’s a reason why dangerous goods aren’t allowed in the Massey Tunnel or Cassiar Connector.

There’s been talk of pressuring the railways to remove one of their tracks – that still only frees up one more lane of traffic, we’re still not up to four if we want to maintain access to the retail fronts along Front Street.

What about behind The Interurban and Keg, there isn’t physically enough room to put four lanes between the existing building and the railway tracks. Are they going to shave a corner off this newly restored historic building for a truck route?

All of these are questions that have to be answered in order to make the City’s dream mitigation a reality, and despite years of talking about the NFPR and Front Street with ample opportunity to address these challenges they all remain unanswered. And now we’re asking Translink to suddenly plan and fund this route as one singular project, with adequate public consultation, before the March federal deadline? Really?

2011 is going to be an important year for transportation in New Westminster; the City is updating their Master Transportation Plan, the blueprint for transportation in the City. It’s up to all of us to push the City to get off the fence on these issues. If we truly want a four lane truck route down Front Street, show us the plans on how it will work. How will they make it all fit or which businesses and residents are they willing to sacrifice to shoehorn the road in there? Or should we look at alternative ideas and end the road building paradigm? The time for vague hand waving is over, we need a solid plan on how we want to see transportation in our city evolve over the next decades, the politicians have to get off the fence and make their opinions known.

Getting out of the car mentality is hard, for 50 years this is how we’ve designed and built our cities. We’ve allowed developments where eventual transit service which must follow will be difficult and expensive. As oil prices rise, the idea of cheap living in the burbs will quickly evaporate. With climate change and peak oil the days of motordom are numbered. Even if the fabled electric car becomes a reality we’ve already seen the private car paradigm doesn’t scale. On a recent trip to Seattle it occurred to me, throughout my entire life, over 3 decades, any time I’ve been to Seattle, I-5 has always been under expansion and yet it’s still gridlock during rush hour. The simple reality is no city, anywhere, has ever built themselves out of congestion. And if we think we have the magic plan to do so, we’d be very rich selling it to cities around the world.

But what are the alternatives when it comes to the NFPR? Parallel to the NFPR are three alternative transportation corridors. The Fraser River. The rail lines. And Skytrain. Could the travel demand that Translink projects for the NFPR be satisfied by shifting some of the current and future demand towards this existing infrastructure at a savings of over over $1 billion dollars to the taxpayer?

Studies say, yes. A report on Short Sea Shipping has stated there is a good opportunity to reduce emissions and traffic by sending goods by barge. With the completion of the Evergreen Line, we’ll have the equivalent capacity of a 10 lane freeway between Coquitlam and New Westminster. And the Langley-Lougheed rapid bus the province has promised upon completion of the Port Mann Bridge again has the opportunity to remove a significant number of vehicles from the road at a much more modest cost.

The stumbling block in creating an integrated goods and people movement system is there is no single body charged with creating it. Fraser River issues are a matter for the Port Authority, Translink has admitted it’s a good idea but has no mandate to get involved. Rail transportation is a Federal issue and the domain of private railways. The NFPR and Evergreen Line are a Translink issues. The Gateway project and Highway 1 are a Provincial issue. Zoning on where we put sprawling, low-density developments and business parks are a municipal matter. There is no coordination in creating a unified development and transportation plan, and hence we have the chaos and missed opportunities we see today. In this sea of competing interests and jurisdictions its important that we have a clear vision of what works for our City and what doesn’t. Its up to us to champion a workable transportation system for our City while respecting the need to move people and goods throughout the region.

But the obvious conclusion from all of this is if New Westminster council truly believes in protecting New Westminster’s liveability and IF we’re committed to building the NFPR as one unified project, keeping a standalone UBE on life-support for the sake of some Federal dollars which are pennies in the full project price tag makes no sense. Let it go and let’s start making a real plan for the future.

We have to have the hard conversation; can we make a 4 lane truck highway fit down Front Street? If the answer is no, as I suspect it will be, the city must stop dancing on the fence about conditional support for the NFPR only if unrealistic criteria are met. Development in our downtown and waterfront have been held hostage for far too long, we either need plans on how the NFPR will fit in to downtown New Westminster or to put our foot down and say no thank you, but you’re welcome to take one of the several other modes of transportation our City is fortunate enough to have on offer.

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United Boulevard Extension: what’s next? (Part 1)

Photo: Matthew Laird

Front Street. Photo: Pat Johnstone

We won; we stopped the flood gates of the United Boulevard Extension from opening and releasing the hordes of new commuter traffic on to already chocked New Westminster streets. Or did we?

New Westminster council has asked TransLink to continue consulting, designing, and to request an extension for the Federal money committed to the project. That sounds like a green light to me; despite a lot of public posturing by mayor and council that they wouldn’t support the project they haven’t actually said no to the UBE, they’re just tinkering with the details. A, B, C, or D are out, but something else might be acceptable.

But the lingering questions which have never been answered still remain. What about Front Street? What about the Queensborough Bridge which is already backed up during rush hour halfway down Stewardson Way? Where will all this new traffic the UBE enables actually go? How will TransLink ensure a route which is supposed to be for goods movement doesn’t get clogged and gridlocked with commuter traffic? The City and TransLink have danced around these issues but never actually directly addressed them. Sadly because of policy or in some cases geography they simply can’t, which should ring loud alarm bells for residents.

To their credit council has again asked that a UBE extension be tied in to Front Street mitigation, that the NFPR shouldn’t be done piecemeal with a decade or more gap between sections such as the UBE and Front Street. Fair enough. However the key in all this is what a full project with proper mitigation will look like. This is the detail the City has never defined, there’s only been vague hand waving about plinths, tunnels, “mitigation” and a few pretty drawings. In fact in the few details that have been released there’s been conflicting plans and flip flops with issues such as the future of Front Street as a retail corridor. A detailed plan on how such a project would be designed, how it would affect the existing Front Street, how it would fit in with newer City approved projects like The Interurban, have never been shown. The last estimate I’ve heard from a source inside City Hall about 5 years ago was over half a billion dollars to get everything on the City’s wish list, a number which is obviously far larger now.

Now that TransLink has been granted a 3 month extension on the Federal money, this raises the question, why didn’t TransLink produce a complete plan when they announced they were proceeding with the UBE project last fall? New Westminster council’s December 2010 motion on the UBE reaffirms their 2007 position that Front Street mitigation must be part of the UBE project. It was a key requirement when New Westminster agreed to engage in the UBE process more than 3 years ago. If they couldn’t produce such a plan after 3 years, why should we expect them to now produce a plan in just 3 months?

Which leaves two options. Staff (both in TransLink and City) will waste hundreds of hours developing a new UBE plan which will never be approved by the City because it simply isn’t possible to plan and fund a project costing well over half billion dollar by March. Or City Council will drop the demand for Front Street mitigation as part of the UBE, approve a new UBE design and the flood gates will be opened with nowhere for the traffic to go. Which is it going to be?

But let’s talk about the realities of the entire NFPR and its funding. What will it cost and how will it be funded? The project New Westminster is demanding, when all the pieces are put together (UBE, Front Street, Columbia/Front intersection, fixing the Queensborough again) will likely come in well over a billion dollars. If you include a new Pattullo Bridge, we’re talking potentially up to $2 billion. In any projects of such magnitude (and we’re told of strategic importance for goods movement in the eyes of higher levels government) both the Federal and Provincial government would most certainly be at the table.

In the scenario of a billion dollar project, which is what New Westminster council currently demanding, whether they realize it or not, as a condition of approving the UBE, a tiny $65 million contribution by the federal government is meaningless. If council is going to stick to its guns for an all-at-once project, why get worked up about $65m? We’re talking about a much bigger pot that needs to be filled to complete the whole project. Regardless, there is only one taxpayer, whether it’s from the Federal, Provincial or Translink, it’s still our money, and we still pay the bill. The quibble is over which set of politicians get to be the bad guys in having to find the money and which get to be the good guys in cutting the ribbon. They’re playing a game involving their egos and political careers using our money.

But lets say we could come up with funding in the ball park of $2 billion, what are the physical realities of building a 4 lane truck route through New Westminster? In the second part of this article we’ll examine the limitations of building a road through the heart of the oldest City in Western Canada.

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Clean Bin Project Screening February 5th

The Clean Bin Project started as a blog about a friendly competition between some roommates to produce no garbage. The Project has a great blog that is still ongoing even after the initial year is finished, and has evolved into a must-see comedic documentary about our impact on the fragile rock we call Earth. Here’s the trailer:

The Clean Bin Project – Trailer from Grant Baldwin Videography on Vimeo.

This is an amazing film and it’s coming to it’s first ever screening in New Westminster on Saturday February 5th as part of the Royal City Farmers Market Annual General Meeting. The screening will take place at Holy Trinity Cathedral, located at 514 Carnarvon Street. The AGM doors will open at 5:30, followed by the film at 7:30. As an incentive to come to the AGM and support RCFM with a membership purchase of just $10, entrance to the film is a remarkable price of only $3. Regular admission is $10.

At the AGM, we’ll be electing a Board of Directors, and summarizing our 2010 year. We hope you can make it!

For more info check out:

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Chickens in New Westminster

Maybe you’re tired of paying $6 for free-range eggs (that might not be so free-range), or perhaps you want an unusual backyard inhabitant. Regardless, we seem to be in the age of the urban chicken, though to date it seems to be more talk than action; most backyards in New Westminster seem to be distressingly poultry free.

New Westminster, unlike Vancouver, has had a by-law on the books regulating the keeping of chickens   since the late 1960s (bylaw 4271, drafted in 1967 and passed in 1968).

The by-laws are a little restrictive – your lot has to be 6000 square feet in size, the poultry house must be 50 feet from the nearest inhabited building, and the chicken coop must be more than 2 or more feet from the property line.

Obviously this doesn’t fit well with most urban lots, and is not nearly as relaxed as the new by-laws passed recently in Vancouver.

I’d hummed and hawed about talking to the city about possibly relaxing their by-laws, but then I’d heard that the city officials weren’t enforcing the letter of the (by-)law unless a neighbour complained, so I stopped worrying about getting the rules changed, and instead, focused on getting chickens.

Step one – select a breed of chicken. Like most domesticated animals, there are many breeds of chickens, with pros and cons for each, so you need to pick the breed that exemplifies the qualities you desire. I wanted a large, dual purpose chicken (eggs and meat) that was a good egg producer and would be somewhat personable. The Australorp fit the bill, and seemed very chicken-ish in looks.

Step two – try to find a breeder. I discovered that small specialty breeders are actually quite hard to find; many don’t seem to know much about the internet. I started checking Craigslist – in my mind, a cost-effective way for the small breeder to advertise – but there were few listings, fewer for the breed I wanted, and I didn’t get a warm-fuzzy-feeling from any of them.

I moved to searching online, to see if I could get chicks sent by parcel post; believe it or not, mail-order chicks are very popular (at least south of the border), and apparently the chicks will do just fine in a box for a day or two.

I was slightly relieved to not find any companies that were close enough to mail the chicks; I was hesitant about sending infant chickens by mail, and had a vision of a box of dead, fluffy yellow chickens showing up on my door step. If the kids caught sight of that, the therapy would continue for years.

Then I came across The Fraser Valley Poultry Fancier Association (http://www.fvpfa.org/), and discovered that they had a winter show where breeders and chicken keepers would show their prize livestock. I convinced family and friends that were interested in chickens to make an outing of it. The show was very interesting, but the real find turned out to be the show’s program, which had a long and varied list of breeders in and around Greater Vancouver.

I ended up contacting several breeders. Most didn’t want to part with their young chickens, and some were a delightful combination of rude and strange. We finally found a breeder who was willing to part with three chickens “on the point of lay”, but there was a catch – it would be 6-8 months.

Here’s a quick lesson on chicken terminology (and biology) before proceeding: female adult chickens are hens, male adult chickens are roosters, juvenile female chickens are called pullets, and their male equivalents are called cockerels. A chicken typically is considered to be “on the point of lay” at about 6 months. A hen does not need a rooster to lay an egg, but a rooster has to be involved if you want the egg to hatch.

Step three – figure out where to keep your chickens. The most common choice seems to be the chicken ark – a portable coop that has an area enclosed by wire mesh, and a wooden hut for sleeping and laying. I found plans for one on the internet (http://catawbacoops.com/) and spent a weekend (and a few evenings) gathering materials and building it.

Chicken Arc

The last thing you need to do before getting your chickens is to gather the supplies you’ll need. There isn’t much – food, grit, a feeder, and a water container. The food part is obvious, and Otter Co-Op (Aldergrove) sells an organic “laying feed” (designed to meet the nutritional requirements of a laying bird) – $15 for a 45lb bag, and that bag has feed our chickens for 3 months. You can also make your own – there is lots of information on the internet, but it can be complicated sourcing things. Grit is small, rough stones the birds keep in their gullets to help grind up their food (they are essentially a chicken’s teeth).  A feeder is just a food holder – it’s less wasteful (and less likely to attract rodents) than scattering it on the ground, and a water container should be self explanatory.

Chickens also make quick work of some kitchen scraps – peelings from carrots, apples, pineapple, bananas and other fruit, especially berries (we feed them the leftovers, the brown bits that the kids won’t eat, etc). It’s fun to roll the berries around, and have the chickens chase them.

They also like pasta, crackers, and other grain products (but can get gummed up if they eat too much). We also add flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and finely crushed egg shell to their feed from time to time. Because there are free-range in the back yard, they also eat grass, seeds, worms and other bugs, and all the leaves off my wife’s prized beet crop.

The day we got the chickens, we immediately liberated them into the back yard. Unfortunately, when it came for them to roost at nightfall, they had no idea that their ark was their accommodations. We spent some time in the dark, chasing chickens, and pulling them out of rhododendron trees. It took two nights of us placing them in their ark at night before they figured it out, and they learned to put themselves to bed. I would recommend keeping them penned up under their ark for a couple of days to save yourself the joy of the chicken round-up.

Chickens being chickens

If you are going to let your chickens free-range, you have to consider the risks from other animals. A full grown chicken can take on a cat, but don’t stand a chance against a dog. Raccoons are very real threat as well, and are the reason we secure the chickens every night. Our dog has a high prey-drive, so it took a few weeks to teach her that the chickens (like the cat) were off limits. She’s pretty good now.

Ruby thinking about a chicken buffet

And now to the reason (presumably) you want chickens – the eggs. The Australorp was a famed egg producer prior to the industrial-farming movement. The average Australorp will produce 250-300 eggs, and one Australorp set a world record, laying 364 eggs in 365 days. The production of eggs is linked to the amount of light the chicken gets over the day (modern egg producers cheat with artificial light), and the colour of the egg is determined by the colour of the chickens ear lobes

A chicken will lay heavily for about 2 years, and then the production of eggs will start to decline. A domestic chicken can live for 17 years, however. You need to decide what you will do with your chickens when they hit menopause (or as I like to think of it, egg-o-pause). If they are pets, then eggs are a side benefit. But if food is the idea, then you’ll have a hard decision to make a few years down the road.

A piece of advice – don’t run around promising your neighbours the excess from your anticipated glut of eggs – it takes a while to for them to get up to speed. So far, of our three chickens, one is laying, and in the last 3 months, we’ve gotten 2 dozen eggs. We should get 2-3 eggs a day in the spring and summer, but you never know.

When I get asked the inevitable, four-times-a-week, question of when they will lay, or why they aren’t laying more, I grumpily answer, “I’m not sure – perhaps you should go ask them.” The point of all this is, it’s unlikely that you will be awash in eggs when you first get your chickens, even if your chickens are at the so-called “point-of-lay.”

Should you decide to get chickens, you’ll be inevitably be asked these questions:

  • Will they get avian flu? It’s unlikely in a small, isolated flock, not nearly as likely as in industrial setting with thousands of birds crammed into cages.
  • Will they attract rats? If you leave the food out, you get pests, just like if you left the remains of a picnic outside.
  • Don’t they smell? Not really. You do need to clean out their ark once a week. We lay newspaper, and put it straight in the compost.
  • Are they noisy? Chickens are pretty quiet, certainly quieter than a barking dog, or fighting cat. Just don’t get a rooster (it’s against the by-laws).
  • What do you do with them in the winter? Chickens can handle subzero temperatures– they puff up their feathers, and huddle together. We are looking at getting a small light bulb in a can to provide some supplementary heat if it gets really cold.

There are a few down-sides that we’ve noticed,

  • They will eat unprotected fruit; we have 3 blueberry plants, and half-a-dozen strawberry plants. By the time we got the chickens, the fruit season was mostly over, but I would sometimes find a chicken standing on top of a strawberry plant, eating the berries (apples seem to be safe, but I wonder what happens when our grape vine produces). A solution would be to keep them enclosed in a pen on the grass
  • They make a lot of poop. Some of the morning “deposits” are as large as our dogs. Fortunately, it’s excellent for the compost – it doesn’t have the same dangerous pathogens as cat and dog poop. It’s still not fun to step in, however, and they seem to like to poop on the sidewalks.  Again, an enclosure on the grass would fix the issue. The poop is great for the lawn.
  • When going on vacation, you need someone to chicken-sit; this means someone to let them out in the morning, put out food, and then secure them at night and put away the food. Simpler than a dog, but still a complication.
  • You have to be careful with food; one of the kids was feeding large handfuls of wheat berries to the chickens, which constipated one of the chickens. It was an experience, giving the chicken an enema.

If you are thinking about chickens, here’s what I’ve experienced so far: you won’t be struggling under a glut of eggs, they are easier to easy to look after than expected (but difficult to acquire), and they’re fun to watch parade around the lawn, pecking at anything that catches their fancy.

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NWEP to host Urban Transportation Forum Nov. 9

NWEP AGM & Urban Transportation Forum poster

NWEP AGM & Urban Transportation Forum poster

The New Westminster Environmental Partners will be holding an Urban Transportation Forum and Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, November 9 at the Douglas College Student Union lounge.

The event, moderated by Tenth to the Fraser’s Will & Briana Tomkinson (yep, that’s me!), will feature local and regional transportation experts discussing what works in transportation planning, what doesn’t, and what’s coming to New Westminster.

The time is now to talk about our transportation future. New bridges and highways are planned, bringing more traffic to New Westminster. The City is working on an updated Master Transportation Plan. An ongoing “funding gap” at Translink is delaying important transit infrastructure projects.

Speakers will include:

  • Jerry Dobrovolny, Director of Transportation for the City of Vancouver and a former New Westminster City Councillor. He will discuss how the Olympics and Separated Bike Lanes are helping to Make Vancouver the “Greenest City in the World” by 2020. The presentation will include newly released data showing the shift in travel modes that occurred during games time, and discuss how cities can excel in a paradigm of peak oil and GHG reduction.
  • Joe Zaccaria, a sustainable transportation advocate from South Fraser OnTrax. Joe will present some quick facts from our neighbours in the south-of-Fraser region, including options to decrease motordom and make our communities walkable again. What is driving transportation needs in the south of Fraser? What is being planned and what is being hoped for? What does these mean for the whole region?
  • Jonathan Cote, New Westminster City Councillor. He will talk about how urban design and form affect sustainable transportation. He will also talk about road pricing and other issues in the local (New Westminster) and regional (Metro Vancouver) context.

A Q&A will follow the presentations, so bring your questions, concerns, and  ideas. You can also tweet questions @10thtothefraser or comment on this post to leave a question that you’d like Will & I to pose to the speakers during the forum. We’ll try to get to as many as we can during the time allowed.

If anyone is interested in live-tweeting the event, that would also great too!

Following these discussions, the NWEP will be reporting on this year’s activities, and will be electing new officers for 2011. Everyone is invited, admission is free and the general public is encouraged to attend and see what the NWEP is up to!

You don’t have to be a member to attend, but only NWEP members will be able vote at the meeting. Memberships ($5 annually) will be available at the meeting.

Where: Douglas College Student Union lounge, 88 Seventh Street, New Westminster

When: Tuesday, November 9th, 7pm

Who: New Westminster Environmental Partners are a group of residents, business owners, and other stakeholders who believe in thinking globally and acting locally. NWEP is strictly non-partisan, as we support sustainability being embraced by all political parties, organizations and individuals.

Membership in NWEP is open to all residents and community stakeholderswho support our mission and are willing to work with us in a cooperative, consensus based-decision making process to promote sustainability in the City.

NWEP’s mission is to work with residents, businesses and government agencies within the City to achieve environmental, social and economic sustainability in New Westminster, through the identification of issues, education, public advocacy, the promotion of best practices, and the implementation of effective projects.

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Electric bikes added to City fleet

In this city of hills,  you really can travel uphill both ways. So it’s perhaps surprising that New Westminster has such a strong, passionate cycling community. While it is hilly, our city is both compact and central – features that lend themselves to bike commuting. Now City Hall too is sharing the velolove.

One of New Westminster's new electric bikes.

One of New Westminster's new electric bikes.

The City of New Westminster has added three new electric bikes to its vehicle fleet, making it easier for staff to do business in the city without the need of a car.

As Transportation Demand Management Coordinator Jenyfer Neumann points out in the City’s media release about the purchase, most local trips are as fast or faster by electric bike as by car.

“By sticking to the bike routes, our staff are able to avoid heavy traffic,” Neumann says, “and the full electric assist also keeps staff cool – except for steeper hills, pedaling is not necessary.”

The purchase will reduce car trips for city business as well as employee commutes.

“After surveying staff, we found that many people drive because they need their vehicles for work,” says Neumann. “By providing more fleet vehicles, staff are able to leave their cars at home, or even sell an extra family car if they don’t need it for work anymore.”

The electric bike initiative is only one part of the City’s corporate Transportation Demand Management program, which aims to reduce the number of staff single-passenger car trips by encouraging alternatives such as taking transit, cycling and carpooling.

In addition to providing the three electric bikes for staff use, the City also has:

  • made more traditional fleet vehicles available during the work day
  • become a member of The Company Car, part of the Co-operative Auto Network
  • provided access for city staff to TransLink’s discount annual transit pass program
  • implemented a Guaranteed Ride Home policy should staff members taking transit to work be called away to tend to an emergency
  • become a member of Jack Bell Ride-Share to promote car-pooling and provide ride-matching
  • provided personalized transportation planning for all interested staff
  • purchased two fleet “regular” bicycles available for staff use
  • updated information available about sustainable transportation options

Way to go New West!

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Trash talk at Green Drinks this Wednesday

Green Drinks is an informal monthly meeting of people interested in the environment and sustainability issues, held on the first Wednesday of  every month. This months’ get-together is on July 7th, starting around  6:00pm, in the “Back Room” of the Heritage Grill, 447 Columbia Street.

Green Drinks is an informal monthly meeting of people interested in the environment and sustainability issues, held on the first Wednesday of every month. This months’ get-together is on July 7th, starting around 6:00pm, in the “Back Room” of the Heritage Grill, 447 Columbia Street.

On the first Wednesday of every month New Westminster Environmental Partners hosts ‘Green Drinks’ at the Heritage Grill in New Westminster. I’ve never been able to make it down because of the kids, but I think it’s an awesome idea.

Green Drinks is a monthly meeting of people interested in sustainability and the environment, and is usually free of themes or agendas.  This week, however, there’s a special focus on Metro Vancouver’s ‘Zero Waste Challenge.’

A short panel discussion featuring local Zero Waste Challenge participants, including a community group in Glenbrook North who recently completed a 3-month “Neighbourhood Zero Waste Challenge,” will kick off the event. The Glenbrook neighbours who took the challenged significantly reduced their garbage output, and inspired a group in Sapperton to build upon this success over the summer. Here’s hoping the idea spreads to other New West neighbourhoods too!

According to the “Code” of the International Green Drinks movement, the emphasis is mingling and sharing insights, inspiration, and ideas in a very social setting. The mixed crowd of environmental professionals, politicos, community activists and general rabble-rousers ensure lively conversations.

NWEP is hoping the example of our local Zero Waste champions can inspire others to look at alternatives to expanded landfills and building trash incinerators, as Metro Vancouver is finalizing its longer-term plan for managing the region’s trash problem.

However, true to the Green Drinks Code, the panel will only be the conversation starter. With so many environmental issues jostling for attention right now, from Gulf oil spills to collapsing wild salmon populations, there will be no lack of topics for discussion.

Green Drinks is an informal monthly meeting of people interested in the environment and sustainability issues, held on the first Wednesday of every month. This month’s get-together is on July 7th, starting around 6:00pm, in the “Back Room” of the Heritage Grill, 447 Columbia Street. For info: www.nwep.ca or www.greendrinks.org

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