A Great Trek at UBC

Post by Mike Klassen in

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ubc great trek
Students in 1922 occupy incomplete science building on Point Grey campus after Great Trek - not a safety harness to be found

When you hear about a "Great Trek" at UBC campus you can be forgiven for thinking it's a big nerd fest orchestrated by the Engineering school in honour of Leonard Nimoy. The term Great Trek has historical significance to the campus, and it also refers to an event taking place next week in support of saving UBC Farm.

A press release from the organizers describes the farm as follows:

UBC Farm, Vancouver’s last working farm, is an urban agricultural and academic gem. It is a 24-hectare educational centre for hands-on sustainability and food systems research, teaching, and community programs. The Farm hosts research and learning on some of the most challenging sustainability issues of our time such as low-carbon food production, alternative energy, nutrient cycling, and honeybee colony collapse disorder, to name a few. It is home to a Saturday farm market during the summer season, and a number of innovative programs that involve residents from the downtown eastside, children from various Vancouver schools, academics, youth, elders, and everyone in between.

Residents and workers at the campus, as well as many students have taken the position that the farm must remain as is. The UBC campus which surrounds it has transformed beyond recognition in the past 20 years since I graduated from there. The pace of development has created a number of challenges, including difficulties meeting the expanding school enrollment, and transportation gridlock on routes to and from the campus.

While it's hard for anyone to dispute the importance of green space, arable land and honeybees, it's still not clear from the communication I've read what the two sides (the farm proponents and UBC's Board of Governors) actually want.

There will undoubtedly be a compromise of some sort. The scale of this 2009 Trek, which will probably end up with hundreds rallying through the campus, will surely attract some attention to the subject.

But isn't the larger issue the development of UBC campus itself? Over the years there have been calls for (and against) amalgamation with the City of Vancouver, if only to apply some kind of coordinated development strategy with the city. The UBC transit line debate will certainly fire up public dialogue on how UBC connects with Vancouver, but that discussion is months if not years away.

While I'm somewhat proud of my old Alma Mater for its ability to grow and meet the needs of legions of students, when I visit the campus I sense that it keeps on growing without an apparent vision for its own future.

There are a lot of homes and buildings now where rugby fields and parking lots once lay. But I don't feel like what has replaced them is a true community – yet.

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