The City of Surrey says it has acquired all five acres of property it wanted in order to expand Hawthorne Rotary Park, as it builds a road through the greenspace.
“It’s for riparian area protection, to help us expand the parking lot on the east side, relocated from the centre of the park to the road edge which is a much better design for the park,” said Neal Aven, Surrey’s Parks Manager.
Aven noted part of the five-acre acquistion included parkland on the west side that allows the city to connect Hawthorne Park (identified as a hub in the city’s Biodiversity Conservation Strategy) to the west to a north-south running habitat and wildlife corridor also outlined in the strategy.
“So there were several acquisitions,” he explained. “A few along the north side on 108th Avenue, a couple along 144th on the east, and one property on the west side.”
The city says by acquiring five acres of natural areas, it is increasing the net overall size of the park by one acre, resulting in a net increase of 200 trees in the expanded park, after factoring in other work being done in the park including the two-lane road being constructed through it.
The controversial 105 Avenue Connector project, which will connect City Centre to Guildford via a road through the greenspace, includes a street through the park.
Emotions were high when the city cut down an estimated 450 trees — 200 that were at least 30 diameters at chest height — in January to prepare for the road construction.
Protesters showed their opposition at the park during the tree felling, with some delaying work by blocking machinery, and about 30 people attended a vigil to “grieve the loss and devastation” afterward.
“Every single tree and shrub between the two construction fences are down,” Save Hawthorne Park leader Steven Pettigrew told the Now-Leader after the trees were cut down.
“It looks like the type of clear cut that you see on the mountains after a lumber company has been through,” he added.
The city’s justification for the connector road is to move utilities off 104 Avenue in preparation for light rail, that it’s been in the city’s Official Community Plan since 1986, and to create an east-west connector to Whalley Boulevard to 150th Street to ease traffic and reduce congestion.
Surrey’s Engineering Communications Manager Rosemary Silva told the Now-Leader earlier this year that the improvements aim to “strike a balance between the area’s growing transportation demands, plans for sustainable development in City Centre and along 104 Avenue, as well as delivering improved amenities within Hawthorne Park through $6 million in committed investments.”
Silva said $3 million in park improvements were approved along with the roadworks and another $3 million will be spent on Hawthorne Park’s master plan, totalling $6 million of improvements to the park in all.
Work in the park will include new environmental and biodiversity features, a relocated parking area which increases natural space within the park for picnics and play, a new waterpark and all ages playground, as well as new park access points, walking trails, pedestrian paths and cycle tracks, noted Silva.
“Within the park, the city has designed a customized road corridor which reduces the overall road footprint and includes enhancements such as noise attenuating pavement to reduce noise levels,” she added. “It also provides for maximized boulevard design for large street tree growth, above-standard space for cyclists and pedestrians, and new park access points for neighbours.”
The road through Hawthorne Park, and improvements at the south end, are set to open this September.