Advocates for the Green Timbers Urban Forest are voicing environmental impact concerns for the proposed Surrey-Langley SkyTrain route through the forest.
The proposed SkyTrain route would go down Fraser Highway toward Langley and through the Green Timbers Urban Forest.
For members of the Green Timbers Heritage Society and the Green Timbers Urban Forest Advisory Committee are most concerned about the possible widening of Fraser Highway.
Liz Walker, a member of the committee, said it’s not the first time issues of road widening has come forward.
“The widening of Fraser Highway reared its ugly head more than a decade ago. As an advisory committee, we worked very hard to try and convince the city then to keep the footprint to a minimum when they wanted to widen it,” said Walker.
“Now here we are again, looking at changes to the corridor again, which are going to impact the forest. The Green Timbers Urban Forest has been fragmented so severely and this is another cut to it to put SkyTrain in.”
Don Schuetze, a member of the society, said the concerns about road widening were there when the previous city council was discussing LRT, but the concerns “don’t really change with SkyTrain” since some of the route would be at-grade.
“A lot of people were pretty keen to get rid of the Surrey First people because they thought, ‘Doug McCallum wants to run a SkyTrain,’ and they immediately think of the elevated SkyTrain,” Schuetze said.
For Walker, the confusion between whether or not the SkyTrain would be elevated or at-grade, shows a need for more consultation.
“That just speaks to the need for more consultation and greater transparency about what’s going on here.”
Asked what she thinks of the level of consultation so far, Walker said: “Abysmal.”
For TransLink’s part, a statement to the Now-Leader says it is planning to conduct a “comprehensive” Environmental Screening Review of the project.
“Protecting the natural environment is an important priority and TransLink is committed to minimizing impacts, including those of the proposed Surrey Langley SkyTrain,” the statement reads.
“The project team is meeting with local sustainability advocates and participating First Nations, and completed a preliminary round of public engagement to gather feedback on possible issues and opportunities.
If the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain project receives approval from the Mayors’ Council in July, TransLink says it will start “planning work, further public engagement will follow and will help to inform a sustainable and responsible plan.”
Looking forward 10 years, Walker says it doesn’t look good for the forest if the project is approved.
“If they move ahead with this, there will be more trees dying. Wildlife is already in decline around the world, are we going to have a dead forest?”
“I think natural area and green space is widely important. I think more and more people are coming to recognize that. There’s more and more research out there about it. We’re looking at bringing more citizens in to surrey, so these green spaces become more precious and we have to avoid impacting them negatively.”
As for what feedback Schuetze’s heard about the project and its route, he said “everybody has a different opinion.” He said it ranges from people saying Fraser Highway should be closed to traffic while others aren’t against the idea of traffic going through the forest.
Schuetze said he’s found that Green Timber Urban Forest has more arterial roads running through it than any other urban forest he can think of.
“I think that’s a really interesting fact that no one’s really explored in terms of that. How do we use this land? How do we get people around? Should we be encouraging people to go through parks on the way to work, or should we be encouraging people to go into parks?”
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