A gallery of over 50 attended a public meeting held by the Town of Creston on Jan. 15 to receive feedback about the future of town property north of homes on Crawford Hill.
About 4.25 hectares (10.5 acres) surrounding three open reservoirs that are no longer used is currently fenced off, and town CAO Michael Moore and community services director Ross Beddoes responded to audience feedback regarding three possible options.
1. Remove the fence, or portions of it, to allow access. The property was fenced to protect drinking water, which used to come from open reservoirs; those remaining are closed. This option could require gates, a parking area and/or a space for vehicles to turn around.
2. Develop a new use for the land, while keeping it for public use, as outlined in the Official Community Plan, which also highlighted a public desire for more green spaces.
Opportunities, highlighted in the presentation, included walking trails on the existing road network, rehabilitation as wetland (which could create educational opportunities) and wild land firefighting water storage.
The area also offers unique views.
“The view of the valley is spectacular, especially walking down from the Erickson reservoir,” said Moore.
3. Repair portions of the fence that require it, but continue to restrict access, which is currently available from only the north ends of 23rd and 24th avenues.
Depending on the outcome of community consultation, the land could be open to the public this year. The town still has some work to do to reduce liability issues around the disused reservoirs, and has submitted a grant application for that work.
“That work could be done as early as the summer,” said Moore.
The assembled audience asked questions and offered a variety of suggestions for the property, from low-income housing to parkland, and expressed opinions and concerns.
•Some residents were worried that transients may choose to camp in the area, and have unsafe campfires.
“Once it’s a ‘park’, they’ll assume it’s a free-for-all,” said one resident.
“When we walked this site … evidence of people camping there has taken place,” said Moore, later adding, “That is a concern, but I want residents to understand that it’s happening now.”
If the area were open to the public, the town could set hours as it does at other parks, and the RCMP could enforce those limits.
Another resident was concerned about vandalism and noise if the area was open to the public, and asked that fencing be kept in place on the south side, “for the protection of our houses and our lifestyle on the hill.”
“We would probably want to maintain a barrier between residential properties,” said Moore in response to similar concerns. “One resident who could not be here tonight phoned me, and that was their only concern.”
•One resident felt that having a wetland too near a concrete reservoir, which may deteriorate and crack and, would allow pathogens to enter the water source.
“That is separate from the conversation about opening it to the public,” said Moore.
Beddoes added that he has “never seen concrete not crack”, but that the reservoir’s design helps it maintain safe conditions in the event of a breach.
“The Interior Health Authority is very stringent on this: [The reservoir] is always at positive pressure,” said Beddoes.
•A resident was concerned about the possibility of using water from wetlands to fight wildfires.
“It’s dangerous, doing this stuff,” said the resident, who brought eight pages dealing with legislation on the subject.
Moore explained that the use would be under provincial jurisdiction.
“The act of a helicopter using that requires a fire on the mountain,” he said.
•One resident, who grew up in a neighbourhood backed by green space, was in favour of opening the land to the public. She recently spent the afternoon at Schikurski Park with her husband and kids — and they had the park to themselves the whole time — and doesn’t foresee too much extra traffic for the Crawford Hill neighbourhood.
“I don’t believe that this area will see great volumes of traffic habitually,” she said.
Another said she initially felt a NIMBY (not in my backyard) reaction to the idea of opening the space, but soon changed her mind.
“It really is about putting a plan in place that meets the expectations of the neighbourhood,” she said. “I think it’s a fantastic idea if done right.”
Moore closed the meeting by offering to let the affected residents see the property, a visit he expected they will enjoy.
“As soon as you enter that site and start walking around, you forget you’re in Creston,” he said. “It does have a very natural setting.”