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More than 120 people gathered in North Delta today to reclaim a contentious section of land. The site along the Fraser River is where the provincial and federal governments plan to build the South Fraser Perimeter Road.
From their perch above the Fraser, demonstrators set up barricades, planted trees and pitched tents in an effort to hold the space and keep the highway contractors out. "I guess I would call it a liberated zone," said Cathy Wilnder, an organizer with Stop the Pave, the group that called today's action. "People are going against the government and corporate agenda of turning our community into an industrial zone," she said.
The action was the third such targeted against the SFPR, a project some local residents say will increase pollution and traffic. "People here don't know they plan to triple the amount of trucks," said Richelle Giberson, a North Delta resident who lives three houses down from the proposed highway expansion.
But it's not only increased traffic and pollution that's cause for concern, says Giberson, there's also the fact that if it's built, the new highway will destroy an Indigenous burial ground. "Archeologists say it is one of the most important archeology sites along the Fraser River," said Giberson. "Its older than Stonehedge, older than the Egyptian pyramids."
The area where the camp is set up was clearcut and bulldozed during bird nesting season, but has yet to be paved. People young and old took turns setting up wooden skids, filling buckets with rocks, building makeshift toilets in the exposed sandy earth, and preparing to defend the site. Police circled overhead in a helicopter, but as this story went to press there were no uniformed police in the area.
"We're not just going to sit on the side of the road, we're going to be disruptive," said one man who was carrying sticks to block the front line of the barricade. "I feel like I'm camping, except there's no kegs," he said, capturing the jovial mood among those setting up camp.
For Harold Steves, a long time activist who helped set up the Agricultural Land Reserve, today's actions brought him back to his generation's successful efforts to prevent a second crossing from Stanley Park in the 1950s.
"The floodgates are open, the dike at Delta has been breached," said Steves, looking over at the barricades with approval. "The industrial port activities threaten 2,600 acres of farmland," he said. "The writing is on the wall, a highway like this will have a limited life span."
As the afternoon turned to evening, some folks began to drift away from the site, and new faces continue to show up. Campers plan to stay the night, and say everyone -except cops and political candidates- are welcome to join the fun.
Enter between 10749 and 10739, River Road, Delta.