Bunnies barring bridge building blessing
Ladner residents are calling for the reconstruction of the Ladner Lagoon footbridge at Harbour Park, but the province won't give the go-ahead until Delta takes care of its feral rabbit problem.
Delta-South MLA Vicki Huntington said she met with the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources, Steve Thomson, on Monday (Sept. 17) to discuss the footbridge reconstruction delay. She said the province's bureaucracy is responsible for blocking repeated local efforts to reconnect the popular trail system.
“The last comments I heard from ministry staff were concerns about the relocation of the bunny rabbits earlier this year,” said Huntington. “Apparently you can’t move bunny rabbits without a provincial permit and the officials are still tied up in knots about it.”
Ladner Harbour Park became home to roughly 275 cotton-tailed residents in March following the Corporation of Delta's $60,000 feral rabbit management plan.
In January, Delta council approved the plan to capture and sterilize the large population of rabbits living near municipal hall, before releasing them in the park.
Huntington said that now provincial bureaucrats are concerned the environmental integrity of the estuary is compromised by the presence of the rabbits.
Brennan Clarke, a spokesman for the ministry, said Minister Steve Thomson was pleased to meet with Huntington and would like to resolve the issue.
"The first priority is to ensure the protection of the South Arm Marshes Wildlife Management Area, which is a sensitive wetland that could be exposed to unnecessary risks as a result of the nearby release of a nuisance non-native species," he said.
Clarke added that the release of feral rabbits into the park was in direct contravention of the Wildlife Act, and not in keeping with the advice provided by ministry staff. He said other municipalities have successfully cooperated with the ministry in developing successful feral rabbit management plans.
"We are always willing to work collaboratively with our municipal partners, and welcome an ongoing dialogue with Delta leading to a resolution of this issue," said Clarke.
But Huntington said the province has already had plenty of time to deal with the issue and patience is running thin in the community.
"Delta will pay for the maintenance and labour, and all we are asking is please, let us rebuild our little footbridge,” said Huntington.
The Corporation of Delta has budgeted $35,000 toward construction of the bridge.
Prior to its removal in 2009 due to age, the footbridge connected the Ladner Harbour Sewage Lagoon Dyke Trail with Ladner Harbour Park. In 2005, the Corporation of Delta asked the province to delegate management of the trail and has been struggling ever since to have a lease finalized.
"This isn’t the Port Mann Bridge we’re talking about. We can only hope there is a decision shortly," Huntington said.