By Mike Archer. It is good news that several gravel companies joined forces to build a new road on Sumas Mountain allowing truck traffic to steer clear of local Abbotsford roads.
While there is a great deal of animosity, some of it quite justified, between the gravel industry and landowners and environmentalists, the construction of the road is a tangible demonstration that, in their drive for the most profitable solution to their business challenges, the industry also recognizes it has a civic duty to its neighbours.
When the Liberal government gave Sumas Mountain to the gravel industry as a consolation prize for giving up on the gravel riches north of Pitt Lake and River, much of it on native land, it set the stage for the gradual destruction of Sumas Mountain and its conversion into a pile of rubble left behind by gravel mines.
Before Sumas Mountain was rudely annexed against residents’ will, politicians from Chilliwack’s developer-mayor John Les to Abbotsford’s Lexus-environmentalist Patricia Ross participated in the wholesale rape of the once pristine environment of the mountain running interference for the gravel industry in their respective terms as Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD).
With friends like Patty and John at the municipal level and what seems clear to have been an inside track with former Minister of Mines Randy Hawes, the industry has pretty much been able to do as it pleased in environmentally sensitive areas from the Chilliwack River to Deroche, Mt Lehman and the Sumas prairie to Sumas Mountain.
Thanks are due to Summit Sand and Gravel, Mainland Sand and Gravel, and LaFarge Sand and Gravel for pooling their resources and building the road.
As Abbotsford Councillor Bill MacGregor said this week, “As a Sumas Mountain resident I’m pleased to see the success of this local project as offered up by local resident and land owner Gary Emmerson, and I can only hope that it will ultimately lead the way to many more good- will agreements.”
We can only hope MacGregor’s words turn out to be prophetic. The history of the relationship between the gravel industry and landowners or those who care about land use in environmentally sensitive areas has not been one that can be characterized in the way Mayor Banman did – “Neighbours working together to solve a problem,” but it may be a start.
Let’s hope it is.