Growing up, Adam Dhalla walked through the lot of 3038 Guildford Way looking for pinecones to collect. Today, the Coquitlam teenager is hoping to save the entire forested space from demolition.
Last November, the City of Coquitlam approved a plan that would see the 20,000-square-metre urban green lot — which is owned by the city — cleared for the construction of mixed-use development. In response, Dhalla, a Grade 11 student at Port Moody Secondary, created a short documentary and launched a petition in October that has racked up over 15,000 signatures.
“You would lose a crucial wildlife corridor through the city,” Dhalla said. “You’re going to lose an important space for transiting species that use the lot to pass through the city.”
Dhalla, who in 2018 launched “Find the Birds,” an educational mobile game about conservation, says migratory birds, bats, and other mammals use the urban lot as a gateway to larger forested areas in Coquitlam such as the Coquitlam River Park.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says that the plan to build on the space at 3038 Guildford Way came as a result of the city’s commitment to the Evergreen SkyTrain line and its desire to construct high-density residential areas around the rapid transit system close to downtown, Town Centre Park and the Douglas College campus.
According to Stewart, building a residential space around the SkyTrain station, where the lot currently stands, is the city’s vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the belief that public transit will drop the number of cars on the road.
“I appreciate Adam’s enthusiasm over it, I’ve got [“Find the Birds”] downloaded on my phone,” he says. “In the end, though, we need to always make it so that public-policy decisions are aimed at the most sustainable future.”
According to Dhalla’s petition, the City of Coquitlam cut down nearly 150 trees in nearby Glen Park in 2012. His motivation to act now is to prevent the loss of another urban nature space in the city.
There is no timeframe in mind for when 3038 Guildford Way will be converted into a mixed-use development space, but Dhalla believes the city is missing an opportunity to establish a nature park in the middle of the city.
He would also like to see the city hold an independent investigation into the environmental impact of the urban forest.
“I get the arguments for densification. I think that development of lands that are already degraded with human influence should be developed way before places like this are touched,” he says.
No matter what happens in the future, Dhalla hopes that his petition has brought environmental discussion to the forefront of future city planning.
“[The petition] is going places,” Dhalla says. “It’s definitely not guaranteed that the petition is saving this lot, but it’s 100-per-cent guaranteed that this lot will not go quietly.”