Local activist Nathan Pachal has announced he is once again vying for a seat on City of Langley council.
After losing by just 71 votes in the 2014 election, Pachal is confident his “simple solutions for a better Langley” will resonate with voters in the February byelection.
A longtime activist for better transit and park systems, Pachal founded the non-profit organization South Fraser OnTrax, co-founded the HUB Cycling Langley Committee, has been involved with the Rail for the Valley campaign to bring back interurban train service and is one of the longest standing members on the City’s Parks and Environmental Advisory Committee, apart from 90-year-old Rhys Griffiths.
And whenever politics go awry in the Langleys, he is quick to document them on his South of the Fraser Blog, equating to thousands of written posts since starting the website in 2008.
“My dad was an advocate for what he believed in and was very much engaged in public policy, and I believe I got some of that from him,” Pachal said.
“If you see something you want to change, then you should work towards changing it rather than sitting on your laurels, as it were.”
When it comes to the City of Langley, which Pachal has called home since landing his first broadcast technologist job at Joytv 10 years ago, his largest concerns are safety, health and prosperity.
To start, he believes that investing in infrastructure to improve safety will “enhance the quality of the public realm.”
“A report came out from Colliers International looking at how you could draw light industrial businesses in some of the areas where there could be some renewal, and the thing that it actually said was that the lack of good public realm — like sidewalks and proper lighting — was one of the reasons discouraging businesses from locating here,” Pachal explained.
“And it makes sense, because people want to locate in a place where there’s a sense of pride, where there’s a sense of ownership. When you see graffiti and things broken, that sends a signal that this is not really a great place. So when you tackle those things early, you tell the criminal element that this is a community where people care and they are going to stop their behaviour.”
This also ties in with another of Pachal’s passions — supporting downtown businesses.
“Local businesses really are at the heart of our community, and if you see the signs when you’re walking downtown — and they’re true — when you spend money and you invest in local businesses, that money gets returned to the community,” he said.
Pachal says it’s important to support groups such as the Downtown Langley Business Association, which is encouraging positive activities in the downtown core through programs like the McBurney Plaza Summer Series.
“Supporting initiatives like that in a more formal arrangement I think would do wonders to really create a positive atmosphere in Downtown Langley, and there’s a bunch of other things that can help, too,” he said.
One such thing is building a dedicated arts centre. Pachal believes it would be “transformative” for the City’s arts community, and the entire downtown would benefit from its activities, both in the day and at night.
But it’s not only the downtown core that needs added attention. The City’s parks do as well, Pachal said.
“The Nicomekl Floodplain transverses the whole community, it practically touches everyone’s home. It’s a real gem, but I think if you talk to anyone, they’ll say there’s been some challenges in there lately,” he said.
These include homeless people taking up residence, garbage that’s been collected there as a result, discarded needles in the playground, and a general fear people have going into that area, Pachal said.
“In order to make that a park for everyone in the community, we need to start focusing our resources on cleaning that up. And it’s not more police or anything like that, because police are extremely expensive. It’s looking at using our existing City resources more effectively.
“We need to start bringing people back in to the floodplain to discover it as their own and really build that sense of community. I think that’s the goal through this whole process, to really set the foundation for people to feel ownership in their community and feel pride in their community, and really feel safe in their community — and that’s why I’m running.”
And for those who think the tender age of 32 is too young for politics, “I’ve been involved in Langley politics for a decade now, so I would say a decade of experience in Langley is a good amount of time,” Pachal said.
“What I think is really important is that people who are running should be running in the city in which they live, because you have a vested interest in your community,” he added.
“For me, I’m a proud City resident.”