Two major Fraser Valley non-profits are rallying their members in opposition to a proposed Sumas Mountain gravel quarry they say will rip up terrain used by thousands of trail runners, mountain bikers and other recreational users.
The proposed quarry would see 4,000 trucks of gravel removed each year from a 10-hectare site for up to 50 years, and sits directly between Sumas Mountain Inter-regional Park and its parking lot.
Users say trails in the area are among the best in B.C., if not the world, with some providing views all the way to Vancouver. But the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association (FVMBA) and the Run for Water organizers say the quarry threatens to destroy much of the prime territory used by runners and bikers.
“It would close the mountain,” said Rocky Blondin of the FVMBA.
Last year, the operator of the quarry, Dave Taylor of Kamloops, obtained a permit to do exploration work on the site. He is now seeking permission from the province to begin operating a gravel quarry. He did not respond to requests for comment.
The City of Abbotsford, Fraser Valley Regional District, Metro Vancouver, Sumas First Nation and Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson have already voiced their opposition to the proposal. The FVMBA has taken the lead in organizing the grassroots resistance to the quarry. The group launched an online petition, began a “Save Sumas” photo and messaging campaign, and this Saturday will host a special event from 4 to 7 p.m. at Old Abbey Ales.
The recreational value of the area, Blondin said, “is more than the gravel in the ground.”
The concern is not only of the impact of the quarry on the mine site itself, but that the increase in truck traffic and location of the site will prevent access to the nearby park.
“This is a very unique part of the mountain,” said Peg Peters, the executive director of Run for Water, which has raised $72,000 over the last two years from its trail run on the mountain. “We have a real gem on Sumas Mountain and we really think this should be a protected park.”
Peters says half of the trail used for the run would be wiped out, along with many of the environmental reasons that the organization holds its event in the area in the first place.
“There are some incredible habitat, streams, fish, wildlife that are going to be jeopardized as well in that area,” he said. “This is the ancient territory of the Sumas First Nations peoples. They have been using this for tens of thousands of years. We would like to keep it in the beautiful stage, in the raw stage that it is.”
The FVRD says that for the quarry to proceed, the property would need to be rezoned and the site would need a commercial gravel operations permit. Both would require the approval of the FVRD board, which seems unlikely given their past opposition and the region’s current official community plan.
But both Peters and Blondin worry the province could allow the project to proceed anyways.
“Once the province comes to this stage, they’re not often stopped,” Blondin said. Peters, meanwhile, decried what he said was a lack of consultation by the applicant and the province.
Concerned citizens who contact the FVRD are being encouraged to email those two decision-makers, along with the Minister of Energy and Mines and local MLAs.
Gibson said the quarry is in a “sensitive location,” and shouldn’t proceed. He said he plans to meet with the relevant ministers in the next two weeks.
Outside of the applicant, FVRD chair Jason Lum said he hasn’t heard any support for the proposed quarry.
Lum said the proposal not only doesn’t comply with land-use rules in the area, but would go against commitments made by the province regarding the mountain park and the larger regional parks plan.
“Ultimately, how we respond is going to be dictated by what the province does here,” he told The News. “I’m going to remain optimistic that the minister and the province will listen to the overwhelming opposition to this project.”
The provincial government did not respond to a request for comment.