Community holds vigil for trees removed from park by YVR

The airport authority is redeveloping 44-acres of land in Richmond to build a cargo and logistics centre.

A group opposed to an airport expansion project in the Richmond community of Burkeville held a vigil Friday night for 13 trees chopped down by YVR crews in Templeton Park. Save Templeton Park / PNG

A Richmond group fighting to save its local park from being destroyed by an airport expansion project held a vigil Friday for more than a dozen trees that have been chopped down.

Melissa Gervais, a Burkeville resident for 22 years and a spokesperson for Save Templeton Park, says they were caught off guard when YVR crews removed 13 trees in Templeton Park earlier in the week.

So about 50 people from the community of just over 300 homes gathered to hold a candlelight vigil on Friday night for the trees, which Gervais says were an important part of the 15-acre park.

“We grew up with those trees. Our kids play soccer out there,” she said. “It’s so disheartening.”

The park is part of a 44-acre parcel of land that YVR owns on Sea Island and is redeveloping in an area adjacent to the community of Burkeville. The airport authority says the redevelopment will include a modern cargo and logistics centre as well as a green space corridor that will act as a buffer between residences and the project.

Save Templeton Park, however, is arguing that the buffer will not prevent noise and air pollution from construction, which threatens their health and wellness.

They are appealing to Health Canada to test for health and safety.

“We need to get some real tests done because they are going to do the pre-fill, which is sand, so the jet fuel will attach to the sand and that will blow into our lungs,” said Gervais.

Gervais, who lives across from the park, says when they start construction she won’t be able to live there, and she’s concerned she won’t be able to sell or rent her home either.

YVR has said it will plant hundreds of trees as part of the buffer zone but the group says the area is only 30 metres wide.

“They are calling it a forest but there’s no room for this development. So we have voiced our concerns,” she said, adding that their complaints were not communicated to the city of Richmond.

YVR, however, claims it has been working with residents of Burkeville to design the project with consideration for the community’s interests, and that the consultation process has been ongoing since November 2017. That process has included advisory panels, open houses, surveys, consultation reports, and information sessions, according to YVR.
The airport authority says they have started some site remediation work for the buffer zone which included tree removal. It says 13 trees needed to be removed while 12 were retained to build the “improved green space and buffer zone.”

The development is part of the YVR 2037 Master Plan , which was approved by the federal transportation ministry in 2018. Construction begins this year.

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