Sustainable development plan coming for downtown

 

Downtown New Westminster. Photo credit: Daniel Fortin (aka powderedsnow)
Downtown New Westminster. Photo credit: Daniel Fortin

New Westminster is working on a new sustainable development plan for our downtown area thanks to a $136,000 grant from the Federation of Canadian MunicipalitiesGreen Municipal Fund

The plan will guide development in a proactive manner by identifying policies and implementation strategies to ensure sustainable growth of the downtown as a high quality, liveable, transit-oriented regional town centre.

The plan will:

  • Review land use/zoning policies
  • Research innovative ways to provide public open space
  • Foster adaptive reuse of heritage resources
  • Identify options to mitigate the noise, air quality and connectivity issues relating to the regional goods movement corridor. 
  • Encourage public transit use in the more densely populated core 
  • Protecting open space and natural areas by focusing growth within existing urban areas

New Westminster development services planning analyst Eric Westberg sent me the following tips on how to get involved if sustainability is an issue that matters to you: 

Read city council’s reports & share your feedback

The Draft Framework for the Downtown Sustainability Action Plan (a sub-component of the Downtown Community Plan) at this time is scheduled to go to Council on June 1. Based on this schedule, it will be publicly available with the weekly Council package on May 29 on the city’s website

The consultant working on the project is HB Lanarc (read more info on the project and the selection of HB Lanarc in the April 6 Council report).

The Downtown Community Plan has a dedicated information page on the city’s website as well, with meeting notes and information dating back to summer 2007.  You may also be interested to reach the city’s Corporate Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan (PDF file)

If you’d like to send feedback to the city, here’s who to contact: 

 

 

Attend upcoming public consultation meetings

Eric confirmed that there will be further public consultation meetings on the overall Downtown Community Plan coming up soon, however dates are TBD. If you’re interested to know when they will be, leave a comment on this post. At these meetings, there will be an opportunity for citizens to provide feedback on various sustainability issues, including one of New West’s big hot buttons: transportation.

Watch for further related city-wide environmental initiatives

With recent Provincial environmental legislation committing to a 33% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, New Westminster may follow the lead of cities like North Vancouver who have created city-wide sustainability vision statements and greenhouse gas local action plans. Further public consultation would be included in any such plan.

Join a city committee and/or NWEP

Councillor Jaimie McEvoy chairs New Westminster’s Environment Advisory Committee, which operates on a one-year term and meets every two months. If you’d like to sit in on a meeting of this committee, the next one is June 10 at 6:30pm at City Hall (either Committee Room 2 or Council Chamber). 

You can see the complete list of citizen volunteer committees on the city’s website. The application process for the upcoming term will begin later this year. 

Eric also recommended becoming involved through New Westminster Environmental Partners, headed by perennial Green candidate Matthew Laird (who is also on the Environment Committee). 

There’s also New West Environmental Partners, headed by Matthew Laird, who is on the Environment Committee. NWEP suggests a variety of ways to get involved on their website, including: 

  • Joining a planning committee (areas of focus include energy, transportation and agriculture)
  • Writing letters to local newspapers and politicians on sustainability issues (and I would add, guest post on Tenth To The Fraser!)
  • Make a delegation to city council on key issues
  • Demonstrate sustainable living in your own lifestyle
  • Spread the word about environmental issues to friends & family
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Political Grinch

I need to be clear that I am speaking on behalf of Jen Arbo, here, and not Tenth to the Fraser. Tenth to the Fraser does not endorse any particular candidate.

Most Tenth to the Fraser readers will recognize that I generally write about things like gardening, lifestyles, spa treatments, local businesses, and people who don’t shovel their sidewalk. I usually leave the politic-y stuff to Will and Briana because, well, I am definitely no expert. But with election fever at an all time high and me having cast my ballot at the advance poll yesterday afternoon, coupled with the highly successful All Candidates Meeting that took place two nights ago, I’m actually paying attention to this election.

When I was a teenager not yet of an age where I could vote, my parents would agree to huge lawn signs  – and not just the little plastic ones – the enormous wooden kind that took two people and – gasp! – tools to install. I remember being incredibly mortified, like any proper self-respecting teenage girl, but I will be darned if I can remember what party those signs were for although I think it may have been the now-forgotten Socred Party. Funny how memory works. It wasn’t until years later when my parents started referring to me as “their tree-hugger daughter” that I even considered myself to be from a decidedly different political generation. 

I have always disliked politics and the grandstanding that tends to go with it. I have always felt that politicians aren’t speaking to or for me, and that they just get paid to sit around and tinker with the rules I live by and regardless of who is in power, all the tinkering in the world means very little because in the end, I’m still not rich and I’m still paying taxes. What I do know is that I see ads and find my face scrunching up involuntarily like the Grinch. “Eeeewwwww…. politics?” I say. I think money spent to grease the wheels of the political campaign machine is money better spent on charitable, environmental, or social projects. Less advertising, more money where the mouth is. Whenever there is an election, I generally only stay interested long enough to find out: where do I vote?

Once I have those figured out, I tune out. Because I can’t stand the “he said, she said” backstabbing,  name-calling that I see in mail outs, TV ads, newspaper ads, blah blah blah. I get sick of the machine. 

 STV is one of the few issues I haven’t bothered to tune out this election, primarly because I didn’t understand it when the machine started to roll. I’ve paid a fair amount of attention to both the yes and the no side of the issue, and I feel the yes side has done a much better job explaining it to me, illustrating the pros and cons to both options on the ballot. I also greatly appreciate the fact that the referendum has been appended to the election itself – thus reducing the cost (that ultimately I am bearing as a taxpayer) of staffing and running a referendum without an election to piggyback it on.

So, who gets my vote if I’m not paying attention? I vote Green in every election because I know that no matter what the agenda du jour is, or what the hot button issues are, there is at least some platform of the Green Party that I support.  I know that there is at least one commonality between my personal beliefs and that of the party I am voting for. Besides, I love rooting for the underdog. I vote Green not because I think there is a snowball’s chance in H-E-double hockey sticks that the Green Party might actually win anything, but because I know that to me, the Green Party is the least of all evils.  It might not be the best way to select a candidate – sort of like the ostrich in the sand technique –  but it works for me. I believe there is no such thing as a wasted vote, if you put the effort in to actually go and do it.

The democratic process is one I think we take for granted – especially those of us who lack personal first hand memories of losing loved ones while defending democracy in foreign countries. With apathy and consumer-driven materialism seemingly more common, and voter turn out sinking lower and lower (although I caught a tidbit on the news ticker this morning that says advance polls are showing huge turnout already – is that because of the upcoming long weekend or is that because people care more this year?), I’ve gotten into the habit of telling anyone who will listen that I am headed out to vote, as if by osmosis those who “don’t care” might just go and vote anyway. BC Elections’ current ad campaign, clearly designed to appeal to a hip and cool crowd, claims it’s a “5 minute process”.  For comparison’s sake, when I attended the advance poll yesterday, it took 7 minutes from the time I entered the building to the time my ballot was cast into the box. 

It’s often said (and joked) that if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain. And while amusing, there is a fairly sizable grain of truth to the adage. If you don’t participate in the process of electing, then you aren’t a part of a system that, by design, allows for complaining. I know I often feel helpless and I often feel like I don’t matter to various officials – whether municipal, provincial, or federal – but the fact is that I have the power to speak up. Yesterday I did. You should, too.

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Garden Nerd Series: Timing

We’re kicking off a new series here at Tenth to the Fraser. The Garden Nerd series will look at gardening issues in New Westminster. Suggestions for topics, guest submissions, and questions are all welcome. We’ll try and address it all!  You can find other posts, as they are added, by clicking hereToday’s post is written by Ross Arbo, CHT. Ross spent 14 years as a landscaper on Vancouver’s West Side. He also happens to be married to Jen Arbo, a regular contributor, and occasionally authors posts over at the Arbolog.  

That Time of Year

Around now, the weather is getting (noticeably) warmer, the last of the snow is gone and many people start to think: gardening.

Not everyone enjoys or appreciates gardening but I find those that do cannot be categorized. Some like a few pots on their balcony that they can throw a bit of water at and are content. Some like to go out into their patch with the clippers every chance they get and weed/cultivate meticulously and water every second day. Still others like to focus on vegetables; sowing seed early in neat rows and waiting with baited breath for their harvest to mature. Whatever type of gardener you are, this is an exciting time of year. Here’s a short list of what I do now:

  1. Pruning – specifically deciduous shrubs & trees. A lot of people recommend major pruning – the kind that removes up to 1/3 of the plants branches or growth – for the more dormant months of January and February. For less severe pruning, wait till March-April when the buds are-a-poppin’.
  2.  Weeding – weeds are just starting to show. Grab them out of your garden beds now before they seed/spread too far and you can theorectically have yourself a worry free May. You will definitely be weeding by June 1st. Be sure to prolong your great weeding job by running a cultivator through the bed after.
  3.  Dividing – most perennials can and should be divided at this time. I don’t know how many garden beds I’ve seen with HUGE clumps of peonies, just starting to stretch that are begging to be divided. Get out there with a sharp shovel and start dividing already!
  4. Soil Amending – mix a bag (or 6) into your beds/pots or simply ‘top-dress’ as both will add great nutritional value to your existing soil. Choices these days are endless; from good old ‘mushroom manure’ to ‘locally sourced, sterilized, organic worm castings’. Remember that the operative word is amend; adding too much can shock and burn new roots/shoots.
  5.  Enjoying – gardening does take some time and effort but, in the end, you must enjoy your little patch. No matter what you do, make it your own.

One final word:  for any of you dying to buy and plant that technicolor flat of impatiens you see on sale at Home Depot, Safeway, or any other place, please wait until Mothers Day (May 10, 2009); it’s still too cold at night. I can’t tell you how many times I have to tell my wife to be patient! The flowers will just get shocked and die and then it’s a waste.

Happy gardening!

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Metro Vancouver Seeks to Amend Solid Waste Management Plan

In my mailbox today, I got a little piece of paper that appears to be junk mail. Upon further inspection, it was a blurb from the Metro Vancouver letting me know they are seeking to amend their solid waste plan, by exporting our garbage to the United States. The Cache Creek landfill, long one of the Lower Mainland’s dumping grounds, is closing down in 2010 and the powers that be apparently went, “Huh. Well. What are we going to do wih all that garbage?”

So they have two proposals they want the public’s input on:  

One proposal will see part of our garbage delivered via truck to a Surrey facility, where it will be transferred to rail, and will then go through Surrey, Delta, and White Rock, and eventually make its way to the Roosevelt Regional Landfill in Washington State. Another part of our garbage in loaded containers will be transported along Highway 1 via truck and will head south to the US along Highway 11 in Abbotsford, and then to Sumas, Washington, where it will be transferred to rail.

The other proposal will see part of the garbage delivered to an Annacis Island facility, where it will be transferred to rail, and it will go via train through New Westminster, Surrey, Delta, White Rock, and then cross the border. The other part will be delivered via truck along Highway 1 to Chilliwack, and then transferred to rail, where it will head south through Abbotsford and finally into the United States, eventually ending at either a landfill in Oregon or a landfill in Washington. 

Here’s a wee map of the proposals, courtesy of the Metro Vancouver, although I find it slightly alarming that once the proposed garbage routes hit the United States they apparently disappear into the ether and cease to exist:

Here’s where I get all ranty. I have two beefs with these “plans”.

One: why aren’t they teaching people how to reduce waste instead of just trucking it off to somewhere unseen? Recycling compliance is, to be blunt, terrible. People still throw away items that are perfectly recyclable or reusable (and I am guilty too) and worse, there are many recyclable items that you can’t even put into the municipal curbside collection bins. Here at Chez Arbo, we’ve made a point of hanging onto all of our packaging from items we buy at London Drugs, since they claim they will take back all packaging from items purchased at their store but it’s a cosmic pain in the butt to have to find a place to store bulky items like styrofoam until our next trip to the store. We also make the effort and take  certain items, like code 6 or 7 plastics, to the municipal recycle centre at Canada Games Pool because we can’t put it into our recycling bins in the waste room.  But we can’t compost in our multi-family housing complex and so all those green scraps go straight into the landfill. The Vancouver Sun reported in late 2008 that recycling in multi-family housing is pathetic, at best. Citizens aren’t able to put a lot of items into any of the recycling depots – curbside or not – because facilties don’t exist. You know those Tim Horton’s and Starbucks’ cups? NOT RECYCLABLE. Seriously. The corrugated paper jackets are. The cups and lids are not. 

While I can understand that an immediate solution needs to be found, where are the educational initiatives? There is a Zero Waste Challenge initiative at a regional level, and that’s great, but why isn’t there some sort of Green Action Team all over the local media, conducting educational seminars, talking to children at schools and teaching new residents and homeowners what they can do? Why aren’t they approaching groups like The BC Apartment Owners and Managers Association to try and get more people on board with recycling? Where are the municipalities standing up and being leaders in green initiatives and lowering waste? Why is the town of Leaf Rapids, Manitoba (no offense, Leaf Rapidians) beating us to the punch banning plastic bags? Aren’t we known in BC as the Greenie Weenies? Aren’t we supposed to be granola-eating, fleece-wearing, Birkenstock-sporting, hippies in disguise? I mean, come on, Greenpeace was born here. Why is some town in Manitoba taking a more proactive stance that we are? I realize a lot of these are rhetorical questions but I doubt I am the only person asking them. 

Beef Number Two: The old saying “Out of sight, out of mind” really applies here. If people don’t know where their garbage goes, why on earth will they care? Have you been to a transfer station lately? Holy cow! The amount of items being thrown away that can be reused, given to charity, or given away on sites like Freecycle  and Craigslist is ridiculous. Surrey has a great, well-used site called Surrey Reuses – I’d love to see New Westminster come up with a similar site. I’ve got about ten things I’d happily give away for free right now if such a site existed because I’d love to pass on my things to someone who isn’t planning on reselling them – which is what I find happens with most stuff I give away for free on Craigslist and that drives me crazy and is a whole other rant. 

The Metro Vancouver Regional District is looking for the public’s input to the two proposals to deal with solid waste, and with the possibility of garbage being transported through our city (albeit in sealed containers) I would think many New Westminster residents would be interested in attending the public sessions. There are four planned and for all four, registration is from 6:30 – 7:00 p.m. and the meeting is scheduled for 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. Make sure your opinions are counted! 

March 25, 2009
Chilliwack
Evergreen Hall
9291 Corbould St

March 26, 2009
Abbotsford
Abbotsford Banquet Centre
33738 Laurel St.

March 31, 2009
Surrey/Delta/New Westminster
Compass Point Inn
9850 King George Hwy.

April 1, 2009
Surrey/White Rock
Pacific Inn and Conference Centre
1160 King George Hwy.

 

 

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Urban Wildlife Series: Skunks

The Urban Wildlife Series will take a look at wildlife we share our city with. This is the first in a series. You can view the others, as they are added, by clicking here

 I have a skunk who lives in my neighbour’s yard, under an old garden shed. I’m told by another neighbour that “Suzy”and her family have lived in the area for almost ten years. Whether it’s the original Suzy or not, I doubt – their lifespan is about 6 years.  But a skunk makes her way around our neighbourhood at night with regularity. So regularly, in fact, that I’ve taken to saying “Hello Skunk” when I walk at night rather than recoil in horror. 

To be honest, I have a hate/hate relationship with skunks, despite their cute factor. Because seriously? They are really, really cute.

Exhibit A: 

Exhibit B:

Amazingly, there are people who actually BREED skunks on purpose and sell them as pets. Seriously, what are people thinking? This is wildlife. Wildlife that comes with its own smelly weapon. 

Once, many moons ago, I was sprayed by a skunk when I left my apartment for a walk with my dog. Despite a liberal application of Skunk Wash, and multiple baths, for three years afterwards, every time it would rain, Mooki reeked. I had to throw out all my clothes I was wearing that day and have my car professionally cleaned. In case you ever get skunked, here is the recipe the Emergency Vet Clinic (yes, I called) will recommend:

1 litre-ish 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Baking Soda
2 tbsp Dish Detergent (Dawn is the best, but any kind will do)

It’s going to boil up like a grade 5 volcano science project, so make sure you use a big enough container. Also, don’t seal it up afterwards or it will blow up because the recipe creates oxygen. It’s that oxygen that gets the smell, an oil based chemical, off of you or your dog. While it’s foamy, apply it liberally (and I mean liberally) to your pet. Avoid the eyes. You might need to do this a few times, so buy in bulk. And because I know,  Shoppers Drug Mart on Kingsway near Willingdon is the closest 24 hour pharmacy to New Westminster. Until then, I never had a reason to keep a LITRE of hydrogen peroxide. Oh, and your pet’s fur may get bleached a bit from the hydrogen peroxide. 

Skunks are nocturnal critters, and live in dens. They don’t hibernate, like I thought. Instead, several females will get together and chill out for weeks at a time in the winter, only leaving the den for food. They are omnivores, eating mainly insects, plants and small mammals. Right now, with spring quickly approaching, you’re likely to see more of them as the frequency with which they explore the world increases. They’re also preparing for mating season and in May, their young will be born.

Apparently Suzy really likes grubs, especially ones in my lawn. She has spent the past two nights digging it up. 

Skunky Evidence
Skunky Evidence

The best way to deal with a skunk encounter is to back away as calmly as possible. Skunks spray only as a last resort and only if they have no other way to defend themselves. They prefer to flee rather than fight, and will stamp their feet to try and get you to back off. If you are by yourself, you will likely have better luck, because if you have your pet with you, chances are that pet thinks this skunk is worth investigating. And a dog investigating a skunk is certain to end only in a bad smell. If you have a skunk living in your yard that must be moved, call a professional such as AAA Wildlife Control. I’ve used them before and they were excellent.

‘Green’ transportation programs planned

The City of New West has received a grant from the feds to boost green transportation in the city. We’re already fairly well served by transit, and our small footprint makes New West more walkable than many places. The funds, which will be matched by the city, look like they will target awareness programs. 

The city is receiving a $120,000 grant from the federal government for environmentally-friendly transportation programs to get people out of their cars and encourage walking and cycling to local schools. The funding, matched by the city, also pays for a co-ordinator to promote green transportation options.

The first initiative New Westminster plans to take on will focus on getting city hall employees out of their cars. Alternatives such as greater use of transit, cycling, walking and car sharing can reduce the number of car trips staff make commuting to work.

The campaign will first establish a baseline by looking at existing habits, said Catherine Mohoruk, New Westminster’s transportation engineering specialist.

A similar campaign is aimed at employees working for the city’s largest employers, including Royal Columbian Hospital and Douglas College.

And another initiative, the Safer Routes to School Program, will aim to get parents of school aged children to choose alternatives to driving their kids to school.

Source: Ottawa gives NW some ‘green’ money | New Westminster News Leader

I’m sure NWEP‘s all over this, but I don’t see any comment on their website. I’m curious to hear what they think about this – and if the city will involve them in the campaign.