Teen calls for signatures to save a treed lot in Coquitlam from towers

Coquitlam's Adam Dhalla, a Grade 11 IB student at Port Moody Secondary, launched an online petition this week to save the city-owned property at Westwood Street and Guildford Way from development.

A teenage conservationist from Coquitlam is gaining steam with his campaign to keep an urban space green.

Adam Dhalla, a Westwood Plateau resident and Grade 11 IB student at Port Moody Secondary, launched an online petition this week to garner support to save the treed lot at Guildford Way and Westwood Street, which is located south of Town Centre Park.

The city-owned property at 3038 Guildford Way is slated a high density, mixed-used development under the City Centre Area Plan that council unanimously adopted last November, said Genevieve Bucher, Coquitlam’s director of community planning.

But nothing’s currently on the books, said Dhalla, who has the backing of the Burke Mountain Naturalists and the Northeast Coquitlam Ratepayers Association with his proposal.

And next Thursday (Oct. 21), Dhalla will speak to NECRA members and the public about his land-use plans to have the property continue to be a wildlife corridor — especially for bats. The in-person meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at Victoria Hall (3435 Victoria Dr.). Call NECRA at 604-970-2579 for details.

Speaking with the Tri-City News on Tuesday (Oct. 12), Dhalla said he wants to put pressure on the municipality to save the 20,000 sq m area that’s full of flora and fauna.

Covered with ferns, moss and second-growth forest of mostly Douglas Fir and red cedar trees, the parcel is a critical nesting area and holds important ecological significance, he said.

Among the bird species he’s listed include Anna’s hummingbirds, red-breasted sapsuckers, Northern flickers, Willow flycatchers, black-capped chickadees, woodpeckers, Pacific wrens, Wilson’s warblers, spotted towhees, song sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, American robins and European starlings. As well, the place is home to two species of bats, as well as squirrels, coyotes and other critters.

Last month, Dhalla had a group of college students ready to survey the land; however, the city blocked their access, he said. “It was very disappointing. I didn’t know they could do that.”

Dhalla said his passion for nature — and access to it — started as a child.

Growing up in City Centre, he saw the city chop dozens of trees to expand Glen Park, and he questioned their removal.

At 13, Dhalla was the youngest presenter at the International Ornithological Congress (IOC), the world's oldest bird research conference, and he co-created Find the Birds (findthebirds.com), a free educational mobile game for kids, teaching bird conservation.

That year, he also clinched the American Birding Association’s Young Birder of the Year Award following his 2017 Field Ornithologists' BC Young Birder of the Year accolade. 

And he’s been invited to South Africa to present to the IOC next year.

As for his attempts with Coquitlam city hall, Dhalla said he reached out to councillors about his plea to save the urban forest, but he only heard back from one elected official. “It’s an uphill battle.”

Still, given the “abundance of habitat” — and that the city is now calling for input on its draft environmental sustainability plan (feedback is due by Friday) — Dhalla believes it’s a good time for the community to talk about the future of this treed lot.

• To sign Adam Dhalla’s petition, visit change.org. To watch his documentary, go to save3038.com.

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