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Proposed park by Fraser River a ‘100-year opportunity’

Salmon streams or bus parkade?
terry Slack
Terry Slack would like to see a vacant industrial lot turned into a new park. photo Dan Toulgoet

Terry Slack has a vision. The veteran fisherman wants the city to establish a 10-acre park with a salmon stream and bird habitat at the foot of Cambie Street by the Fraser River.  

Beneath the concrete vacant land owned by TransLink, south of the train tracks at Kent Street and between Laurel and Cambie streets, are three short underground streams that few people know of. Water trickles up from cracks in the concrete, once home to a former sawmill and still zoned industrial, to form a large pond with ducks, bulrushes and Black cottonwood plants.  

“Look how clean the water is,” said Slack. “Kids could wade in it, you could bottle it. We want to daylight the streams, dig up the old pipes, and let the water run free. Then when the salmon come back up the river, looking for a place to spawn, we can put gravel down in the stream and hope within five years we’ll have a spawning ground. In the spring the young fish will return to the river.”  

Because these are “short streams” that start at Kent Street and not the headwaters to flow into the Fraser, Slack said it would not cost much to set up the project, which could be funded from the $27 million in amenities set aside in the new Marpole Plan.

Mayor Gregor Robertson told the Courier he likes Slack’s idea.

“There is a compelling case for using street ends that the city controls to create salmon habitat along the river edge. Council has given direction for a 10 acre park to be created by the river, as part of the Marpole Plan. Staff are pursuing all options to see we get it done, but we are not certain of the exact location yet.”

City councillors Heather Deal, George Affleck and Adriane Carr also support the plan.

The 21-acre industrial site is owned by TransLink, who has no immediate plans to sell the land.

“The site is intended to be used as a future bus facility,” said Derrick Cheung, TransLink’s vice-president of real estate. “The mandate for the park is that of local government. At this time, we are not selling the land and we have not listed the land for sale, therefore, have not received any solicited offers on the site.”

Gord Ruffo, program manager for Port Metro Vancouver’s habitat enhancement program, said Port environmental experts toured the area with Slack.

“There may be an opportunity there, but this is a very early stage,” said Ruffo. “We’d keep an eye on his idea, because there are few intertidal marsh benches left in the Fraser River estuary.”

Ruffo added that the Port leased the north arm of the river for some years from the B.C. government, but it reverts back to provincial control at the end of this year.

“This is 100-year opportunity because the land is vacant,” said Slack. “This is a little jewel sitting on a hunk of concrete.”