File photo Roy Strang, in Sunnyside Acres, the forest he helped gain protection status for 30 years ago.

Sunnyside Acres supporter moves his roots

South Surrey’s Roy Strang devoted more than three decades to the urban forest

A longtime Peninsula environmentalist left South Surrey in a hurry, but as swift as the decision may have looked, Roy Strang says it certainly wasn’t an easy one.

“It wasn’t a decision that was made lightly, I can assure you,” Strang told Peace Arch News.

Strang – a former environmental columnist for PAN – said in a recent interview that he and his wife of nearly 65 years, Alison, moved to Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood from Ocean Park on short notice in December, after Alison’s health took a turn for the worse.

“It came on quite rapidly,” Strang said last month, of the change in Alison’s health.

“She needs care which we couldn’t give her at home.”

Strang, 91, is well-known around the Semiahmoo Peninsula for his work over the past three decades to preserve, and raise awareness of the importance of, Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest.

The 130-hectare greenspace has been protected as an urban forest since 1988, following a grassroots campaign to see the second-growth forest preserved from development. In a referendum, residents voted overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the woodland site intact, and city council of the day declared it was “to be set aside in perpetuity for its intrinsic and heritage values.”

Strang was an original member of the group that fought to save the forest and, along with Diana Wegner, was instrumental in the development more than a decade later of a fire management plan for the forest. That plan was developed in response to a growing and increasing risk of human-caused fires in the forest.

Strang, a retired forester, wrote regularly – weekly at first, and then monthly – on environmental issues, including the forest and even moreso, the Agricultural Land Reserve, for PAN’s lifestyle pages from 2006-2015, with a hiatus in 2010.

He also penned the 140-page Sunnyside Story, a limited-edition book which tells the story of the forest’s dedication.

He was never one to shy away from stating his opinion – “I like to sound off,” he told PAN in 2015, in a story on his decision to set his columnist pen down for good – and was an avid believer in sharing the area’s natural history.

Much of that was done from the heart of Sunnyside Acres itself, where Strang routinely led tours for local students and others.

Still, while he believes he has raised awareness of environmental issues, he hasn’t seen much change in efforts.

“I think they are more aware of it. They’re not yet willing to put themselves out to protect it,” hes said.

“Go stand on Highway 99 one morning and see how many cars are going by with just one driver. It’s just a symptom of the problem.”

In addition to his focus on the urban forest, he spent eight years at the helm of Surrey’s environmental advisory committee and was a dedicated community policing volunteer for the South Surrey RCMP district office.

He has been recognized as a Surrey Citizen of the Year, received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal in 2002 and was presented the Order of White Rock in 2008. Last year, he accepted a 2017 Heritage in the City Award on behalf of Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society

Alison, too, has been featured in the pages of PAN over the years, in her passion for, and success with, Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers. She operated Westerlea Kennels since 1976, and co-authored The Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, described as the first hardcover book devoted to the breed.

Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society president Ron Meadley described Strang’s move from the local area as “a big change.”

“It’s a milestone. He’s gone from being very active to… not even in South Surrey any more.”

Strang – a father of five – agreed he was “very active” locally, and said he and Alison will miss the area.

“We had very good friends and lots of activities in and around the White Rock/South Surrey area, which are no longer very accessible to us. We regret that.”

Just Posted

Surrey-based group maps places to find affordable food

Surrey and White Rock Food Coalition targets food security

Youth and seniors learn from each other

Seniors Health Network launches intergenerational program in White Rock

Volunteer Cancer Drivers Society raises $8,000

Donations collected at Christmas event last week

Realtor blanket drive collects 360 bags of clothing

Annual event helps South Surrey and White Rock residents in need

VIDEO: Hundreds of volunteers collect, wrap toys in Surrey at Sikh elementary school

Guru Nanak Free Kitchen, Sikh Academy partner together on annual toy drive

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey, Langley and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Canucks score 3 power-play goals in 4-2 win over Oilers

Vancouver sniper Boeser has 6 goals in last 5 games

VIDEO: Giants head into holidays with a win at home

Vancouver G-Men don’t play next until Dec. 28, after 2-1 victory over Prince George Sunday.

Microscopic parasite found in Prince Rupert water affecting thousands

More than 12,000 residents affected by the boil water advisory issued Dec. 14

Trudeau lashes out at Conservatives over migration “misinformation”

Warning against the “dangers of populism,” Trudeau says using immigration as a wedge political issue puts Canada’s future at risk.

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

Todd Hickling gathered donations and used gear to remove the cost barrier for kids to play hockey.

VIDEO: Giants fall to Royals 4-2 in Victoria Saturday night

Second loss in as many days for G-Men, who are back home in Langley today to take on the Cougars.

Canada’s ambassador meets with second detainee in China

Global Affairs says John McCallum, Canada’s ambassador to China, met with Spavor Sunday

‘They’re coming:’ Flying cars may appear in urban skies by 2023

Air taxis will number 15,000 and become a global market worth $32 billion by 2035

Most Read