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  • ‘There's no coming back’: Burnaby resident takes stand against proposed green waste facility at local park

‘There's no coming back’: Burnaby resident takes stand against proposed green waste facility at local park

A Burnaby-based realtor is worried that the park he’s loved for years will be gravely impacted due to the city’s proposal to build a massive organic waste recycling facility.

green waste facility fraser foreshore park

Burnaby resident Josh Wong has been putting up posters around Fraser Foreshore Park to encourage residents to voice their concerns about a proposed organic green waste facility. (Simran Singh/ Google Earth)

Josh Wong’s love for Fraser Foreshore Park goes back to his childhood.

“I’ve had many many childhood memories there,” he said. “Me and my brother, we used to catch salamanders, frogs, snakes, and we even fished over there.”

But now the Burnaby-based realtor is worried that the park he’s loved for years will be gravely impacted due to the city’s proposal to build a massive organic waste recycling facility on 21 acres at the city-owned 4800 Riverbend Dr., which is currently dedicated Fraser Foreshore parkland.

burnaby green waste facility

The larger Google Earth image shows the larger parcel of land that contains the City of Burnaby’s proposed site (which can be seen in the top left map in yellow). This image is intended to show a different view of the proposed site and does not depict its exact land area or borders. (City of Burnaby/ Google Maps)

Wong said he was “shocked” to find out about the city’s proposal for the Green Recycling Organic Waste (GROW) project and its potential location.

The $182-million fully-enclosed facility would be built on a site that makes up 12% of Fraser Foreshore’s 175-acre parkland.

The potential site itself contains eight acres of wetland (4.4 hectares of swamp, 2.5 hectares of forest, and 1.1 hectares of marsh).

The facility would be used to convert organic waste into high-quality soil that could be used by residents, community gardeners and local farms.

A City of Burnaby illustration highlighting how the GROW Facility could be utilized

According to the city, the facility also has the potential to annually generate enough renewable natural gas to heat 5,000 homes and process up to 150,000 tonnes of organic waste (30,000 tonnes would come from Burnaby and the remainder would be from surrounding communities).

The project would also allow Burnaby to obtain price certainty for its green waste via a “fixed tip fee” which is significantly lower than market rate and adjusted annually for inflation.

Currently, Burnaby’s green waste is processed at a private facility in Delta, and its limited capacity has led to higher tipping fees and price increases, says the city.

But for Wong, news of the potential new facility comes as a concern.

“[As] a Burnaby realtor, I see a massive population boom. Same with immigration as well, with construction popping up all over the city, and wildlife and biodiversity is being displaced at a very fast pace,” he said.

“Deterioration of nature doesn’t just happen overnight. It happens slowly because of the micro-decisions like building facilities on top of dedicated parkland.”

Wong has taken action by creating a campaign, encouraging residents and parkgoers to write to the city and voice their concerns about the proposal.

Wong has put up posters around Fraser Foreshore to encourage residents to voice their concerns about the GROW facility’s proposed location. (Simran Singh/ Burnaby Beacon)

He’s shared his pamphlets online and posted them around the park to spread awareness.

Wong said the response to the campaign has been “mainly positive.”

“…Residents of Burnaby all know Foreshore Park […] everybody’s been to Foreshore before, it’s a core memory for many citizens. And a lot of people are opposed to the city … building there because … it’s a very protected ecosystem.”

In order for the construction to move forward, the site’s status as designated parkland would need to be removed, which can only take place through an elector voting process.

To make up for the removal of dedicated parkland, the city said it is “committed to ensuring an equal or greater amount of land will be made available for park use to off-set the area of land undedicated for the GROW facility.”

The city noted that 204.05 acres across four sites were approved by electors to be dedicated as parkland during the 2022 municipal election.

The project would also require permits from the provincial and federal governments to proceed.

In a report presented to council last week, staff outlined a “robust environmental compensation program,” to mitigate impacts caused or related to the facility's construction, which would consist of on-site and offsite work.

The city said it would be the “largest environmental enhancement the city has undertaken.”

Wong feels like the compensation program doesn’t cut it.

“[The city’s] mitigation is just honestly, they’re just trying to please people saying that they’re going to restore these areas. …”

“And, to be frank … the point is if we allow this to happen, it’s gonna keep happening again and again. … Here’s the thing, decisions such as these … are permanent, so once it’s bulldozed over, there’s no coming back. Nature will always find a way to come back, only if it’s given a chance.”

During last Monday’s council meeting, the motion to allow the proposal to go to public consultation carried unanimously.

Construction could start in 2024 and the GROW facility could open in 2026 if the project is officially approved.

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