The value of parks was a major theme for the Tri-Cities’ five mayors at the annual Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce gathering last night (Oct. 14).
Mayors Richard Stewart, Brad West, Rob Vagramov, John McEwen and Jamie Ross — the latter, the longest-serving elected official in the Tri-Cities, voted in as mayor in a byelection in January — spoke about the toll that the pandemic has had on the well-being of their respective constituents and municipal hall employees.
And they talked about the pressures they’ve faced at their green spaces over the past 20 months, and the need to create more parks and trails for residents to escape their homes and remote workplaces to get outdoors for fresh air.
təmtəmíxʷtən/Belcarra Regional Park alone has seen a 30 per cent uptick in visitors since March of 2020, said McEwen, Metro Vancouver’s parks committee chair.
Still, despite the new municipal realities, the pandemic has allowed civic leaders to move faster on programs and services that residents and businesses have been begging for, West said, such as allowing bigger patios and alcohol in parks.
“The things we have been implementing have been game-changers in our community,” Port Coquitlam’s mayor told the crowd of about 100 people.
Held at the Westwood Plateau Golf and Country Club and sponsored in part by the Tri-City News, the in-person event — a first for many in the room in 20 months — was filled with city and provincial politicians including Port Coquitlam MLA and B.C.’s Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and Finance Minister Selina Robinson, MLA for Coquitlam-Maillardville, as well as officials from public agencies.
Representatives from Icona Properties, an event sponsor, were also present to hear Vagramov respond to a question about Ioco Road (Icona is proposing Anmore South, a controversial residential development on its 150 acres).
While McEwen and Ross said their villages need to diversify their housing stock for future generations — “we have become a very exclusive community,” McEwen said — Vagramov said Ioco Road, which leads to the villages, is at capacity.
“In our official community plan, we have a policy for no new traffic on that road,” Vagramov said, while remarking on the sponsor-posed question. “It’s something that has been kind of adhered to in past councils. We’re sort of revamping our OCP, so it’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out over the next couple of years.”
“Certainly, there’s other ways of getting traffic to and from that part of town from our perspective,” he continued. “One of the big ones is the ocean. We’ve heard folks, politicians talking for a long time about a some kind of link from Rocky Point Park and the north shore…. We might have some news on that in the coming months.”
In turn, McEwen, along with Ross, retorted that Anmore “has to be respectful of Port Moody”; however, “with decisions come consequences.”
And although the mayors concluded that they want to build complete communities — where residents can work, live and play — Vagramov said he isn’t interested in catering to big developers and wants to focus instead on the “mom and pop shops” for infill development, and to spur the local economy with smaller applications.
Other questions posed to the five mayors included city hall bureaucracy, accessibility to cannabis products, climate action and Indigenous reconciliation.
Today is the deadline to submit nominations for the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Excellence Awards. To view the nine categories and to make an entry, visit tricitieschamber.com before 11:59 p.m. tonight (Oct. 15). The finalists will be celebrated, and the winners announced, at a gala on Jan. 29, 2022.