A chunk of agricultural land on a First Nations reserve is being cleared and filled with gravel to make a new home for big rigs. But the City of Abbotsford says trucks coming and going from it won’t be allowed to use the nearest highway access.
The Sumas Truck Park is set to open early in 2018 off North Parallel Road west of the Whatcom Road Highway 1 exit. The facility’s website promises to offer 240 parking spots for semi-trailer trucks, and claims it will be “the newest and largest commercial truck park” in the upper Fraser Valley.
The lot will fill a large demand for commercial parking facilities, which are in short supply in a heavily regulated region, according to its project manager Mike Halpen.
The land in question isn’t in the City of Abbotsford, which has no say in the project itself. Rather, it belongs to the Sumas First Nation, making the land subject to federal rules, rather than provincial regulations that govern agricultural land. The developers are leasing the land from the Sumas First Nation.
Sumas chief Dalton Silver did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Street parking a big rig is banned in industrial areas in the City of Abbotsford and bylaws limit two commercial vehicles per agricultural property, with at least one registered to a resident.
Mayor Henry Braun said there are many Abbotsford properties in violation of these rules and there still remains a lack of space for truckers to nest their vehicles.
“As more and more people come and more and more goods and services are being provided, there’s more and more trucks on the road,” he said. “That’s just the way it works and so they have to park somewhere.”
The city is developing a strategy to deal with the hundreds of properties breaking ALR rules, including those where too many trucks are parked on farmland.
The truck park’s website boasts a one-minute travel time from the Whatcom Road Highway 1 exit.
But Braun said he told the developer that trucks going to and from the North Parallel road site will not be allowed to use that junction to get on and off the Highway.
“We have more traffic than we can handle on Whatcom,” he said.
Instead, truckers will have to get on North Parallel Road at the No. 3 Road exit farther east, meaning those coming from Metro Vancouver will have to drive past the park and double back.
“If they start using Whatcom and North Parallel, I can assure you that there will be bylaw officers out there ticketing trucks until they stop doing that,” Braun said.
The second phase of Sumas Truck Park’s development plan calls for a tire shop, washing bay, fueling station, restaurant and more. Halpen said those projects are subject to further approvals.
“That’s kind of down the road, that’s dreaming, pie in the sky, kind of idea,” he said. “There’s a lot of regulation we need to go through to get approval for those types of things and so work closely with the Sumas First Nation on any sort of development that we’re doing here.”