Greenspace map showing a green belt around Little Mountain of what’s left after development. (City of Chilliwack)

Greenspace map showing a green belt around Little Mountain of what’s left after development. (City of Chilliwack)

Chilliwack group seeking support to create ‘urban forest park’ on Little Mountain

Project goal is preservation of ‘last remaining’ pockets of mature forest on north side of Chilliwack

A grassroots effort is coming together in Chilliwack to preserve public access to what’s left of a mature forest on Little Mountain.

“Our goal is to work with the City of Chilliwack to transform a combination of city and private land into an urban forest park for all to enjoy for generations,” said Pollaris Raymond, member of the Little Mountain Preservation Project team.

A project page that went live on the Chilliwack Park Society website explains that the proponents, “a small group of determined individuals and park lovers,” are seeking volunteers, donations and letters sent to city officials about concerns.

The focus is preserving “the last remaining private forested areas” on the north side of Chilliwack, the subject of ongoing talks with city officials in recent years.

This is not the first time anyone has tried to save part of Little Mountain from developers’ chainsaws.

Anne Russell and Daryl Rose, former residents on Little Mountain, created a group called Friends of Little Mountain in 1993, joining with neighbours to preserve the area for public use. They successfully convinced the mayor and council of the day not to sell 12 acres of land to developers, First National Developments, and to keep the land reserved for public use.

But fast forward to December 2019, an area covering about a third of the forested area on Little Mountain was cleared for development.

By February 2020, not one tree was left.

“This part of Little Mountain’s forest was home to its oldest trees, the biggest, and the tallest,” said Raymond. “Now they are gone. Seeing these magnificent trees disappear motivates us to protect what remains.”

Little Mountain’s west and north faces are owned by the City of Chilliwack and private land owners, including First National.

A significant area on the outer edges of the mountain, where development would be difficult if not impossible, is where the city has already conceptualized a green belt in its 2020 Greenspace Plan, from what remains after development.

City of Chilliwack’s Greenspace Plan, and its Trail Network Plan, are the two guiding documents that map out the vision by city planners to acquire future parkland and land for trails as development continues.

A small park or greenspace appears on the city’s greenspace map, in the middle of the future residential area on Little Mountain being built on top of the hillside.

The green belt concept focuses on the areas of private land around the north, west and south faces of the mountain, which are not suitable for development due to steep slopes.

Development in the middle of the mapped area has already begun. The large area west of the development is part of two parcels of land for which the group hopes to raise enough money, with grants, fundraising and donations, to provide financial incentives to the developer to leave developable land untouched, or to purchase the property.

The Chilliwack Park Society already has ample experience in this realm having created the Chilliwack Community Forest and Lexw Qwo:m Park, as a non-profit society that maintains parks and trails in and around Chilliwack, and advocates for outdoor activity.

“It’s important to understand the true civic infrastructure value of mature forest,” said Marc Greidanus, president of the park society. “An expanded forest recreation zone that is accessible by foot or bike for all of North Chilliwack will pay dividends in physical and mental health for decades to come.”

The natural ability of mature trees to cool and filter air, retain soil, and provide flood mitigation are critical. The climate-related extreme-weather events of the past year, including a slide down Little Mountain, “should give the community pause” in terms of developing further on steep hillsides.

“Chilliwack is growing and densifying rapidly,” Greidanus said. “Once these last forested areas are gone, we will never get them back.

“We can’t let this chance for preservation slip by.”

RELATED: Kids remove invasive English ivy on Little Mountain

RELATED: Subdivision prep on Little Mountain surprised resident

Do you have something to add to this story, or a story tip? Email:
jfeinberg@theprogress.com


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Students from Little Mountain elementary removing invasive English ivy from trees and plants on Little Mountain on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Students from Little Mountain elementary removing invasive English ivy from trees and plants on Little Mountain on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

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