Park envisioned by Moncton councillors as city updates Vision Land plans

·4 min read
Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold says the city should look into a federal urban parks program.  (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold says the city should look into a federal urban parks program. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

Revisions to Moncton's urban planning document for a vast area of the city's northwest known as the Vision Lands are prompting councillors to propose creating parkland.

Several councillors raised the idea during a council meeting Tuesday.

"My vision is a central park right in the middle of it, a huge chunk of land right in the middle," Coun. Daniel Bourgeois said.

He suggested the city set aside 500 metres on both sides of the North Branch of Halls Creek, which runs through the Vision Lands.

Mayor Dawn Arnold suggested the city look at a federal parks program.

"I really think it is an opportunity for us to discuss a national urban park," Arnold said. "It fits all the criteria for what Parks Canada is doing federally right now.

"It is about having these urban parks that protect biodiversity, support climate resilience, that improve mental health and wellness, and that provide accessibility for city dwellers to be able to get into nature and go places."

City of Moncton
City of Moncton

The Vision Lands cover a largely undeveloped track of about 1,400 acres bounded by Mapleton Road, the Trans-Canada Highway, McLaughlin Road and Wheeler Boulevard.

Longstanding planning documents have called for developing the area with new homes and businesses. City staff have described it as one of the last readily developable areas within existing municipal limits.

Several proposals on the western side of the Vision Lands, including one involving N.B. Power, have fizzled.

The land is largely privately owned, though walking and mountain biking trails have sprung up over the years.

Park requires landowner co-operation 

Pressed by Bourgeois about whether preserving about 50 per cent of the area could be an option, city staff said it would require co-operation from the private owners.

"If there were land owners willing to provide land for such purposes, that might be a possibility," said Bill Budd, the city's director of planning and development.

He emphasized there are various steps council would also need to take to make that happen.

The comments this week followed several presentations to council by members of the public calling for protecting the area from development.

We do not need more cement. We need more trees to mitigate the climate change that is well underway. - Deborah Baxter

Deborah Baxter spoke to council last October, pointing to the previous council's declaration of a climate emergency in 2019.

"I am completely aghast that we would call it a climate emergency and act like nothing is happening any different than usual," Baxter said last fall.

"I care about you as individuals, but I'm enraged that you're not doing the right thing. … We do not need more cement. We need more trees to mitigate the climate change that is well underway."

Thrive Properties
Thrive Properties

The city's planning document for the area dates to 2004 and was last updated 11 years ago. By law, it needs to be updated every decade.

On Tuesday, councillors voted to approve a legal agreement with six landowners in the western portion of the Vision Lands. Bourgeois was the only vote against the agreement.

Together, the six own about 500 of the 1,400 acres considered part of the Vision Lands.

A staff report to council says the agreement will see the city pilot "green development standards."

City of Moncton
City of Moncton

J.D. Irving Ltd. owns 4.9 per cent of the western area near a new Kent store, Cordova Realty, now called Thrive, owns 28 per cent, numbered companies (626740 NB Ltd, 2027877 Ontario Inc., and 957603 Alberta Ltd.) together own about 42 per cent, Harbouredge Realty Administration owns 23 per cent along the North Branch, and Trilong Investments Inc. owns 1.3 per cent off Crowley Farm Road.

The agreement will see the companies jointly pay a total of $150,000 toward updating the city's plan for their properties. The city expects to spend another $85,000 as part of the planning process.

The city will hire a consultant to carry out the work, which will include public consultations.

Budd said he expects the update may be complete in 2024.

Budd said the area on the east side of the North Branch wasn't included because there are already plans in place or developments underway.