Lot controversy overlooks issue of river access

Raymond Masleck weighs in on the controversy over the proposed lot sale in Glenemrry.

The debate over whether city land in Glenmerry that council wants to sell is a park, green space or building lot and  how it should or should not have been offered for sale misses a significant point.

Glenmerry,  a riverfront subdivision, offers almost no public access to, or even a view of, the  Columbia River.

Given this lack of foresight in the past, and the fact the city is currently paying a consultant to help plan the future of Trail’s parks, it is more than a little odd that council is at the same time attempting to dispose of what it considers a riverfront park in the quietest fashion possible.

Do the councillors really intend to start planning for the future of the city’s parks or are they just blowing $70,000 down a hole in the ground?

The unserviced lot that is classified as parkland in the Official Community Plan but zoned as single family residential isn’t much of a park, and is superfluous even as green space in its current state. It amounts to a large, grassy suburban lot with a line of brush at the back that completely blocks out the river.

Given the limited appeal in its current condition, and its location in a neighbourhood of homes with yards and several better parks and play areas, no one has been seen actually using the parcel as a park since Buddy De Vito was the mayor

But does it have to be that way? If the brush was removed, it would open a view to the river. Is it feasible to cut a path down to the rough trail that runs along the river bank from East Trail to Bear Creek? I don’t know and it’s a safe bet that no one on council has asked.

As it stands now, the river is all but forgotten in Glenmerry, where the riverbank is host to everything but public use, unless you classify  burials and parking for municipal bulldozers as such. There is a tiny strip of open public land at the eastern end of Carnation Drive where it curves back to the highway, but that’s it. The rest is car lots, broken down commercial buildings, aging apartment blocks, a few single-family homes and the afore-mentioned heavy-equipment depot and dull-looking cemetery.

As part of its parks planning process, the city should be having a serious discussion with Glenmerry residents and all its citizens about how the community relates to the river.

Better recognition of and access to the Columbia River is a key concept in Trail’s Official Community Plan. In terms of Glenmerry, the plan states the city should “take full advantage of the neighbourhood’s proximity to the Columbia River by ensuring adequate and safe access to the river and constructing viewing areas.”

This guiding document sounds good but doesn’t mean much unless city councillors keep a copy on their night stands, refer to it frequently, and take action when opportunities arise. Again, I am not saying the postage-stamp green space in question is necessarily one of those opportunities, but it deserves more consideration than it seems to have received.

As for the rest of the process, the city may not be required to advertise surplus property it wants to sell, but it would be a good practice. The city is not a private seller and as such operates under different rules and expectations, which in this case means more than simply complying with provincial legislation.

If a municipality wants to get rid of a long-established neighbourhood green space, however neglected, citizens should be consulted and not simply told that, if they don’t like it, go scour the city in search of signatures supporting a referendum.

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It would be great if the latest promise of truly high-speed public and commercial Internet service in Trail actually comes to pass. To date, the city has used its high-speed access to trim its communications costs, but public access has been almost nonexistent despite years of talk, and there have been no commercial opportunities.

The last time I tried to access the Internet on my laptop from the Tail Public Library, which is located in a so-called Trail “hotspot” for wireless access, I was told to go sit on a bench in the hall.

It has been a dozen years since the Columbia Mountain Open Network was developed with the dream of providing low-cost, hight-speed digital communications to the Kootenays. The fibre-optic cable linking city and school district buildings in Trail to the outside world was strung years ago.

But for the rest of us using the lack-lustre local services of Shaw and Telus, it is still a struggle at times to download a large document, let alone stream video.

Raymond Masleck is a retired Trail Times reporter.