Sunday, March 10, 2013

Urban Sprawl

Central Alberta has some great farmland.  Rich topsoil, a good mix (on average) of heat and moisture.  So why are we living out Joni Mitchell's song Big Yellow Taxi?

In the 15 years since I last lived in St. Albert several whole new subdivisions (with overly large and over priced houses) have sprung up, with more planned.  The city annexed a huge amount of land to the north a few years back -- I often comment on how much stuff is there that was a LONG way out of town before.  Same to the West of town.  Areas where I once rode my bike along gravel roads with fields beside them are now paved roads with developed lots.

Last week when we were down in the Edmonton area this story hit the paper.  12 000 hectares.  Most of which is currently active farmland.  More area where utilities and water lines and sewer (storm and sanitary) pipes will need to be run.  More area of asphalt and buildings and lawns.  On some high quality farmland.

It happens all over.  Grande Prairie has plans to annex land.  Calgary has done it many times.  ANd even without the annexations by cities the counties and municipal districts are rezoning land to residential and industrial.  And often marginal farmland is also marginal for other uses (poor drainage, swampy, rock outcrops etc) so more farmland gets taken away from the plow or the pasture.  Or more bush land is cleared away and the brush burned...

We need to find a better way.  Maybe higher density neighbourhoods are part of the solution?  Maybe redevelopment of existing neighbourhoods?  Possibly, but before that in politically acceptable we have to change some attitudes about how we live and what we "deserve".  Until then we will continue to "pave paradise and put up a..." [parking lot, mall, subdivision, freeway, school, industrial park...]





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