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Coquitlam farm academy plan wilts
A plan to establish an agricultural lab for students to study sustainable farming practices at Colony Farm Regional Park has been put on hold in response to concerns from the Kwikwetlem First Nation.
In a letter to Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Kwikwetlem Chief Ron Giesbrecht said activities leading to the program must cease because Colony Farm is part of the Kwikwetlem's cultural and title lands but the band hadn't been engaged by Metro Vancouver in the planning, licensing or development of the program.
"The Kwikwetlem First Nation unequivocally opposes the development or implementation of the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Sustainable Agricultural teaching and Demonstration Laboratory Farm at Colony Farm," Giesbrecht wrote.
Chief Giesbrecht didn't return calls to The Tri-City News before the print deadline yesterday but a spokesperson for Metro Vancouver said the letter would be reviewed by the Environment and Parks Committee at its Nov. 14 meeting.
Kwantlen had planned to grow crops at Colony Farm next year as part of its four-year sustainable agriculture degree program bBut program head Kent Mullinix said the project is on hold while he waits for Metro Vancouver and the Kwikwetlem band to sort out their differences.
"We're disappointed but we understand the Kwikwetlem sentiment and our position is we don't want to start a farm crosswise with anybody," Mullinix said.
Approximately two dozen students had enrolled in the degree program last year and were to exchange laptops for gloves and shovels and work in the fields as part of their studies.
Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, vice-chair of the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Relations Committee, expressed disappointment the program won't go ahead. He said Colony Farm isn't the subject of an ongoing land claim by the Kwikwetlem and the program fits in well with the land use.
"Based on the kind of use that we're talking about, which is a use that is already permitted and going on for decades — i.e., farm use — it's adding an educational dimension," Drew said. "There's nothing to get excited about."
This is not the first time the Kwikwetlem have been upset with Metro Vancouver. Excavation to clear out a ditch in the park raised concerns in August because there were no archeological professionals on hand when the digging was done near two known archeological sites.