A three-metre tall fence, topped with barbed wire, is being built around the Department of National Defence (DND) lands in central Richmond to bar trespassers and prevent a repeat of the large fire that tore through the peat woodland just over two years ago.
However, Richmond resident Mark Salopek said the fencing “sends all the wrong signals to the community and exhibits no respect for Richmond.”
“Transforming the property into a prison-like concentration camp speaks to their insensitivity to local conditions and shows a total lack of awareness of the fact they are creating a blight on the landscape not in keeping with the surrounding parkland and open environment,” he wrote in a letter to the Richmond News.
The main reason the fence is being constructed is to deter illegal access to the lands and prevent any incidents such as the bog fire of 2018, Jessica Lamirande, DND spokesperson, told the News in an email.
Due to the condition of the area after the fire was extinguished, the cause of the bog fire was never confirmed, said City of Richmond spokesperson Clay Adams.
However, Adams said there have been instances where people experiencing homelessness have taken temporary shelter in the area. He added that Richmond Fire-Rescue supported fencing the lands for safety reasons.
The bog fire – one of the largest in living memory in Richmond – began in July 2018, ravaging 12.3 hectares of the 55-hectare forested parcel confined by No. 4 and Shell roads, Alderbridge Way and Westminster Highway.
At the time, Richmond Fire Rescue received ground and air support from BC Wildfire Service and the DND. No one was injured.
“The fire affected air quality, air travel and the sensitive environment of the bog,” Lamirande said.
“We decided to institute some changes, as recommended by Richmond Fire-Rescue, for the sake of everyone’s safety.”
Work began on the site on Jan. 9, while the construction of the fence itself began Feb. 2, Lamirande said. In total, the project is pegged at $570,935.
The fence will extend 2,600 metres around the site to meet the existing, 720 metres of fence at the Colonel Sherman Armoury at No. 4 Road and Alderbridge Way, according to a project evaluation posted on the federal government’s website.
A four-metre swath of vegetation along the property line was cleared before work on the fence began. Currently, fencing has been put up along Shell Road between Westminster Highway and Alderbridge Way.
When it comes to environmental impacts from the construction, the key concern is the clay layer, said Lamirande. Clay liners need to be installed anywhere a post hole is dug into the clay layer before concrete is poured.
However, the environmental assessment found that there would be “minimal effects” from the concrete on the bog chemistry, said Lamirande, while the “removal of the trees may be of net benefit to the preservation of the bog habitat.”
The construction of the fence is the first phase of the project. The second phase is long-term maintenance of the vegetation that was cut back, according to the evaluation.