If you go by the corner of 10th Avenue and Redford Street, you will see work in progress on a brownfield lot that was a gas station more than 10 years ago. This new project, (“Redford Corner”) which aims to enhance the look of the area, is the brainchild of former Mayor of Port Alberni John Douglas, current city councillor Ron Corbeil and a committed group of volunteers.
The park is proof of Douglas’s continued desire to improve the beauty of our city, and he has the endorsement Corbeil as well as several volunteers recruited by the Salvation Army.
Along with the commitments made to the project by various local organizations such as the Alberni Valley Community Forest, Alberni District Co-op, Dolan’s, the San Group and the permission of the Calgary-based landowner Suncor Energy, the goal will soon be reached to make this site a place with green grass for all of us to appreciate.
“We are trying to make an ugly brownfield look a little bit nicer. We are indebted to the individual volunteers and businesses who provide assistance to this project,” says Douglas. Brownfields are former commercial or industrial sites that have been left empty and undeveloped; unremediated sites potentially have hazardous or contaminated substances beneath the surface.
Douglas, who has lived in the Alberni Valley for 18 years, is a former paramedic with an extensive background as a community leader, advocate and activist. His ongoing commitment to initiate and support proactive ideas and programs have made him a figure to be reckoned with in the Valley and beyond; he has helped to increase the positive profile of Port Alberni in our province.
Among other initiatives, Douglas has been involved in the Port Alberni Shelter Society (PASS), an organization that provides shelter, transitional housing, and longer term housing and recovery for individuals with mental illness or addictions. This program empowers such individuals and gives them a sense of belonging in their community.
Douglas is also a director with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), BC Division, which oversees supportive programs for people with addictions and mental health issues.
“One of the more interesting recent programs is to assist people in mental health crisis by providing alternatives under the 911 setting, and this is resulting in some very exciting pilot programs in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver island,” he said.
With his usual positive and enthusiastic approach to the “Redford Corner” project, he goes on to explain that in our city there are several brownfield lots that could be beautified.
“Although this project at 10th and Redford has taken over two years to materialize, the outcome is gradually becoming a reality and what we have learned can become a template for Port Alberni and for other communities across the province,” he says.
He reiterates that the success of the project is possible only because of the good disposition of organizations like the City of Port Alberni. The Salvation Army also helps tremendously by providing liability insurance for volunteers who give their time and effort to the project.
“We are grateful to the generous folks who brought 30 truck loads of dirt to the site for free; to the Community Forest Society for a donation of $10,000; to the Alberni District Co-op for a donation of $2,500 per year for three years, to the San Group for committing to structural products, to Ineo Employment for recycling mattress materials into raised garden bed frames.
“This is a very exciting, very organic neighbourhood project.”