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More consultation for Colony Farm academy

Coquitlam city council pressure on Metro Vancouver to have more public consultation on a new farming academy planned for Colony Farm regional park proved to be successful this week.

Coquitlam city council pressure on Metro Vancouver to have more public consultation on a new farming academy planned for Colony Farm regional park proved to be successful this week.

On Monday, the city's council-in-committee lobbied Metro parks manager Gaetan Royer for a third outreach meeting in the Tri-Cities and, on Wednesday, Metro's parks committee agreed to the request.

"They recognized that this is an important topic for our community," Coquitlam Coun. Selina Robinson, a Metro parks committee member, said Thursday.

Meeting dates and times have yet to be set but Metro Vancouver was initially looking at four locations to review the Draft Colony Farm Regional Park Preliminary Sustainability Plan with the public: Colony Farm, Coquitlam Centre mall, Granville Island Public Market and the Cloverdale flea market.

The consultations would be held on weekends and be accessible by public transit. Feedback from the sessions are to be included in the draft plan, of which Phase 1 is expected to be adopted this year by the Metro board.

With a price tag around $5 million, Phase 1 of the draft Colony Farm plan calls for up to 91 acres to be transformed into a starter academy for sustainable food production. Colony Farm has some of the richest agricultural soils in B.C. and was once the site of a prize-winning dairy farm and livestock operation.

Last September, Phase 1 of the draft plan was adopted in principle by the board at Metro Vancouver, the agency that oversees its operations. Metro staff met with Colony Farm stakeholders - Colony Farm Park Association, Community Garden Society, Burke Mountain Naturalists and the Riverview Horticultural Society - last November and December to hear their concerns about the pilot project.

And Royer said many of their issues around the park's drainage, community gardens and wildlife as well as potential loss of trees, sales of farm produce and scale of farming were clarified. Still, "we are actively discussing concerns with the Kwikwetlem First Nations," Royer said of the native band that shares Colony Farm.

At Monday's council-in-committee, Coun. Terry O'Neill questioned Royer about the cost and sustainability of the farming while Coun. Lou Sekora said he is opposed to the park being commercialized.

"This park is cherished by Tri-City residents," Mayor Richard Stewart told Royer, noting its natural habitat and bike trails. "It's a magnificent jewel in the region. Lots of people feel they own a piece of this park in their hearts."

jwarren@tricitynews.com