Surrey’s “Save Hawthorne Park” citizens’ group has gained a powerful ally.
Dr. David Suzuki will be the featured guest of a rally set for Sept. 16 from noon to 2:30 p.m. in the plaza outside Surrey City Hall (13450 104th Ave.).
The event is organized by the “Save Hawthorne Park” group that opposes city council’s plans to build a road through the park as part of the 105 Avenue Connector project.
After delivering a 5,000-name petition to Surrey council last month, opponents were given until Sept. 22 to collect 30,372 signatures in opposition to the project in order to stop the civic government from proceeding with the project.
According to a media advisory obtained by the Now-Leader, Suzuki will attend the rally and speak to the importance of environmental rights, as well as “Surrey Council’s failure to live up to its commitments to the Blue Dot movement.”
The city signed a declaration on Jan. 12, 2016 recognizing residents’ “Right to a Healthy Environment” after hearing from the Surrey Blue Dot group the previous summer.
Led by the David Suzuki Foundation, the Blue Dot movement is a national effort to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the right to a healthy environment. To achieve this, the group focuses on getting Canadian municipalities to pass declarations respecting the right of their citizens to live in a healthy environment. The movement states that “all people have the right to live in a healthy environment, including the right to participate in government decisions that will affect the environment.”
Rally organizers say the event aims to “force Surrey council to honour their commitment to the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot movement” and “push back against Surrey council’s abuse of power.”
The Save Hawthorne Park group says it will represent “thousands of residents opposing Surrey’s plans to remove park dedications.”
Grant Rice with Save Hawthorne Park said he could “draw up a better plan on the back of a napkin in 15 minutes than the one that’s being forced on Surrey’s residents.
“And despite what the Mayor says, this is not just about Hawthorne Park,” Rice continued. “If council is successful in using the AAP to remove park dedications, it can do it anywhere. If all of Surrey doesn’t send a strong message to council and sign these forms, we’ve not only lost the battle; we’ve lost the war.”
The group claims the Alternate Approval Process being used in Hawthorne Park is in contrary to “council’s commitment to the environment and the people of Surrey.
“This rally embodies Surrey citizens’ right to a transparent, public decision-making process on matters relating to a healthy environment.”
Mayor Linda Hepner last month defended the project in a letter to the Now-Leader, saying there has been misinformation spread about the project.
Since an information meeting in June to collect information from the public, the city says it has made changes to the project.
One big change is that one of the two planned roads, the 142 Street connection to 104 Avenue, has been dropped.
The city says other changes include an increase in total parkland by one acre, a net increase of 200 trees, additional environmental habitat areas and new park amenities.
Critics have since increased their efforts to halt to the project.
Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum has also thrown his support behind the group, and was among approximately 100 residents that attended a “Save Hawthorne Park” rally Thursday, Aug. 17.