Save Barnston Island

Barnston Island - a treasure of the Fraser River - is under threat. Land speculators applied in 2003 to the B.C. Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) to take much of the island's precious land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR).This application has been deferred for over two years. Despite being opposed by many Barnston Island residents, the GVRD Agricultural Advisory Committee, and by the full GVRD board, this application is still under active consideration by the ALC.

In September 2003, the majority of Barnston Island residents were surprised to open their local paper and learn that a group of their neighbours and non-resident landowners had secretly met with Surrey Council to discuss a proposal to take 440 hectares of their island out of the Agricultural Land Reserve for an industrial park.

Application #35256 plans to have 1,100 acres of the island "excluded" from the protection of the ALR so that the area could be turned into an industrial park. The application also proposes to build a bridge connecting the island with the mainland.

This application, now two and a half years old, has been deferred so long that the original ALC Commission members who heard the application are no longer commissioners.

About Barnston Island

Barnston Island is located in the Fraser River between Surrey and Pitt Meadows. The island is just over 1,500 acres of land. There are about 150 residents. The Katzie First Nation has one of its three reserves on the isand.

The island is served by a free, 5 to 6-car ferry (part of the BC Highways system) that runs from the east end of 104th Avenue in Surrey. It operates on demand from 6:15 in the morning to 11:50 in the evening with an extra hour to 12:10 am on the weekend. The ferry is ten minutes from Guildford and about 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver. The island is protected by 10 kilometres of dyke. The dyke circles the island and also serves as the main road.

The island has a colourful history as a dairy farming community. Residents can remember a time when there were ten successful dairy farms running. Now under different milk quota requirements, two dairy farms are in operation, including one operating for Avalon Dairies. Other farming on the island includes cranberry fields, livestock grazing, production of hay and silage and an award-winning herb farm, Barnston Island Herbs.

The island is distinctly rural. There are no stores or public services of any kind other than a beautiful, small park maintained by the GVRD at the western tip of the island. In addition to the rural setting and scenes of the Fraser River, the island offers stunning views of Mount Baker and the Golden Ears. Families come from all over the region to walk or bike and enjoy the rural atmosphere, scenery, bird-watching and quiet roads.

Misleading claims

The application to take 3/4 of the island's land out of the ALC would mean the end of farming on Barnston. Because Barnston Island is part of the Fraser River flood plain, an industrial development would require dumping metres of sand inside the dyke to raise the surface, making drainage of the surrounding properties impossible.

Speculators behind the application claim that there is an urgent need for more industrial land in Surrey, that Barnston Island lands are of poor quality, that access to the island makes farming impossible, and that island residents are neglected and in need of a bridge. All of these claims are misleading.

In a 2004 report, the GVRD reported that there are currently 8,615 acres of vacant industrial land in the region. On the quality of farmland, the Land Commission itself has taken a public position in the past that Barnston Island must be protected because it is high-quality, scarce farmland. Complaints about ferry access have mysteriously arisen only after this application was filed. And most island residents are in agreement that they prefer ferry service to a bridge as protecting the island's unique quality of life.
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