I have lived two blocks away from Panama Flats for the past 45 years. This is not the first time land use for the area has become a contentious issue. In the late 1960s, Cool Aid founder and future MLA Charles Barber fronted community concerns regarding proposed development for the area. We were concerned primarily with the loss of critical wildlife habitat, but were also questioning the wisdom of building within a known floodplain. The homes and condos came – and flooded – but the basin area of the flats escaped pavement.
Today, the preservation of wetlands for waterfowl and other wildlife is even more important because these areas have become the most fragile and threatened ecosystems on earth. Now that the land has been acquired, I think it should be legally protected and designated as critical habitat.
It bothers me that Frank Leonard is keen on landscaping and manicuring the area. Why can’t we leave it more or less the way it is? Obviously the berms need to be removed and some trails will be needed to protect native wildflowers on Panama Hill, but the land doesn’t require human engineering in order to be beautiful and useful. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that human habitation and activity can co-exist with wildlife habitat in an environmentally responsible manner.
Community or allotment gardens? I’d rather see a berry farm than a crop of plastic lawn chairs, whirligigs and garden gnomes. The area has been farmed for decades during the dry season. We can support local agriculture and address sustainability concerns by leasing the land for spring and summer crops. Perhaps a charity like such as Mustard Seed would be interested in farming the area. After it floods in the winter, the leftover seeds, grains and roots will provide nourishment for waterfowl.