Keeping an area of Coquitlam as wild as possible and free from residential development has motivated a former logger to hand over a large parcel of land to Metro Vancouver to expand an ecologically sensitive marsh area.
Bob Edward has sold 9.6 hectares of land to Metro Vancouver to expand
the Widgeon Marsh Regional Park Reserve to 614 hectares. Ducks Unlimited Canada helped in the purchase of the freshwater
tidal marshes and uplands for $935,000. Edward donated the balance of the property's value of $400,000, for which he'll receive a federal ecological gift tax receipt.
Widgeon Reserve is larger than Stanley Park (405 hectares) but smaller than Pacific Regional Park (763 hectares).
Nearby Minnekhada Regional Park in Coquitlam is 200 hectares.
Edward has lived on the marsh since 1988, a year after he bought the land. He said several thousand Canada geese flew into the marsh on Boxing Day.
"Right now, I can look out and not see another house or another light," he said Thursday from his home. "It is one of the most beautiful places you'll ever see. Totally wild."
From his home on the reserve, he said he can drive into Vancouver and be in Kitsilano to visit a friend in an hour. He's renting the home he's living in on the marsh from Metro Vancouver, and is building another home on a nearby parcel he owns. Eventually, he plans to make sure it, too, ends up as part of the reserve.
"I don't want it sold to private individuals because they will subdivide it and build homes and condominiums," he said.
As a park reserve, Widgeon has restricted access and isn't open to the public, according to Metro Vancouver. A number of rare and endangered species call the area home, such as the green heron, Western screech and short-eared owls, red-legged frog, and the painted turtle.
Brad Arner, manager of provincial operations for Ducks Unlimited Canada in B.C., could not be reached for comment. But he said earlier in a news release that the land acquired by the region is one of the largest remaining unprotected wetlands in the area. It builds upon other nearby wetlands already protected in the Pitt Unit of the Pitt-Addington Wildlife Management Area.
"Widgeon Marsh is unique because it is a tidal freshwater wetland and is influenced by Pitt Lake, the largest freshwater tidal lake in North America," he said in the release. "The wetlands are intensively used by birds, especially shorebirds and waterfowl, with counts as high as 1,000 and 2,000 in a day."
Edward said in a phone interview that the sale was completed in July.
"If you see the area, you'd know why I'm doing what I'm doing. As far as I'm concerned, it will never be opened to the public as a drive-in place because if you do that, you have a big road and parking lot and garbage. It's not a nature reserve anymore. It's taken over by people. It'll be a go-by-boat place."
He said the marsh is an excellent area for kayaking.
Edward sees his donation of land as fitting into a bigger picture. The Widgeon Marsh Reserve is surrounded by Pinecone-Burke Provincial Park, which abuts Garibaldi Provincial Park to the north, which in turn also links with Golden Ears Provincial Park to the south, creating a ring around an area that includes Pitt Lake.
Edward, 79, has lived in the area all his life, and fondly recalls spending time with his mother in the marsh.
"She was a real nature person," he said. "She spent so much time in the marsh. She died the year I bought the property. It's my little bit to save this area. I want this never to be residential or commercial. I want it to be wild."
Since 1992, Metro Vancouver and Nature Trust of B.C. have partnered to purchase 580 hectares of land to establish the Widgeon Marsh Reserve. The recent purchase of Edward's land has meant getting control of a section of private road that provides the only access by land to the park.
- Kevin Griffin Vancouver Sun