Generous family donates funds for TWU to purchase portion of Glen Valley forest

Long-time residents of Langley since 1958, Ann Blaauw and children John, Janet, and Jennifer, have donated a 25-acre parcel of land to Trinity Western University in honour of their late husband and father, Thomas Blaauw. The agreement between the Blaauw family, Trinity Western University, and the Township of Langley will see forested land in Glen Valley preserved for public use, education, and research.

“This land is a showcase of the natural beauty we have in the Fraser Valley,” said TWU coordinator of environmental studies, David Clements, Ph.D. “This type of forest is becoming increasingly rare for the area and, with its close proximity to the campus, it will be a great resource for students, faculty, and researchers."

The property—just east of the TWU campus, known as the Gray Pit Lands, on 257A Street—is made up of five, five-acre parcels. It is zoned RU-3, for low-density residential and agricultural uses.

The Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF) group has been instrumental in bringing awareness to the issue of preservation of the heritage McLellan Park Forests in Glen Valley. Clements, who writes a monthly column for the Langley Times called “The Green Beat,” is also thankful for the land donation. “It will provide a great opportunity to help educate people about nature,” he said.

Since 2008, Trinity Western University has run its popular Salmon in the Valley educational workshops on the Salmon River that runs through campus. Nearly 3,000 Fraser Valley elementary school students, including homeschoolers, and low-income schools, with sponsorship from the Salmon River Enhancement Society, have participated in these workshops. In addition, TWU established the Trinity Western University Ecosystem Study Area (ESA) in 1998—an area surrounding campus that includes sensitive habitat and is dedicated to the study, preservation, and proper management of the environment. Further, TWU has owned and managed property on Salt Spring Island since 2000, and has been recognized for the development of its community garden adjacent to campus on Glover Road. This model for stewardship has been a great success with faculty, students, and the community, who have been able to participate in conservation, research, education, and recreational programs on the lands.

042-land-donation-main-photo01“This is a wonderful outcome that will benefit the entire community and the environment,” said Township Mayor Jack Froese. “People in our community made it very clear that they valued this land and felt it should be conserved. Thanks to this land sale, and TWU’s history of environmental stewardship, it will remain in its beautiful natural state for generations to come.”

Township Council approved the land purchase agreement, which is subject to a restrictive covenant that allows only buildings that enhance the use of the conservation area on the property and grants the Township and the general public access to the land for environmental research, education, and recreational purposes.

Over the summer, a fourth-year environmental science student began inventory of the forest. Through his research, he discovered two species-at-risk—the Red-Legged frog, and the Pacific Side Band snail. These early findings are indications of just how precious this land is, and point to the value of environmental protection in years to come. The student plans to complete his senior thesis on these findings.

“This forest is a diverse little island in the Langley landscape. You can study it for years and years, and never get to the bottom of it,” said Clements.

The community is invited to attend the Thomas Blaauw dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 24, 2013, at 4 p.m., on 257A Street, Langley.

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