Green Timbers Heritage Society board members (from left) Deanna Welters

Protecting paradise

Residents are deeply concerned over Surrey’s plan to cut trees in Green Timbers Urban Forest to widen Fraser Highway from two lanes to six.

A treasured Surrey green space is the setting for an upcoming battle over its preservation, as the city moves to widen Fraser Highway.

The city is planning to expand the two-lane road into six lanes to accommodate four lanes of traffic and two lanes for light rapid transit. There will also be a separate lane for bikes and pedestrians.

Trees along Fraser Highway’s portion of Green Timbers have already been marked for being cut down.

Opponents estimate there will be about 2,000 trees lost in the 1.4-kilometre road expansion.

“It’s going to look like a lunar landscape,” said Susan Lehmann, daughter of the Green Timbers Heritage Society founder Wady Lehmann.

Surrey Manager of Parks Owen Croy said the city hasn’t conducted an inventory of how many trees will be lost. Every effort is being made, he said, to minimize the cut.

It was a year ago this month that the late Wady Lehmann and wife Betty were honoured by the city, which named a grove in Green Timbers after the couple.

Then-mayor Dianne Watts said the Lehmanns were “true visionaries of our city. They had the foresight to see the jewel that is Green Timbers Urban Forest, and their tireless work to conserve this green space is the lasting legacy they leave the residents of Surrey.”

Susan Lehmann said it’s clear the battle to preserve the forest is far from over, noting the park faces one of its most important skirmishes to date.

Nowhere else, she said, would residents sit idly by and allow destruction to happen to such a treasured green space.

She said she’s not alone, and that people are just starting to learn of Surrey’s plans to widen the swath through Green Timbers.

City staff point out the planning process for the Fraser Highway widening has been ongoing for the last 15 years.

A new consultation process began earlier this year, as the city prepares to create a light rapid transit line from Whalley to Langley along the Fraser Highway.

Staff say there will be a custom road alignment to minimize the impact on trees and that there will be accommodations made for wildlife and streams.

The road widening crosses two important salmon bearing streams, including King Creek and Quibble Creek.

Jaime Boan, Surrey’s manager of transportation, said there will be three passages under the road, two for streams and wildlife, and one specifically for wildlife.

More details will be available when the design process is complete, he said.

Feedback during the public consultation process included concerns about habitat and tree loss, increased chance of wildlife road kills and the effects of vehicle exhaust and noise pollution on the forest.

The Green Timbers Urban Forest Advisory Committee was also consulted about highway widening plans.

“Their preferred approach was the closure of the Fraser Highway and 144 Street through Green Timbers in order to create a contiguous natural forest area,” a staff report to council says. “Their least preferred approach was the widening of Fraser Highway and 144 Street with on-site habitat compensation.”

The city plans to reduce road allowances on 148 Street and 92 Avenue, which will create a net increase in dedicated park land of 6.9 acres.

Lehmann said that’s a bit of a shell game, as it’s currently green space and will have no real benefit to the park at all.

Boan said the swap is significant, as property set aside for roadway will now be returned to park.

Generally, the widening will involve tree cutting to the north of the existing highway west of 96 Avenue. To the east, the cut will be made south of the existing highway.

Those choices were made to minimize tree loss, he said.

Boan said further public consultation will be undertaken and public input sought.

If the new road alignment requires a change in the existing road allowance, that would change the park lands created in 1988, then the alternate approval process would be necessary.

If more than 10 per cent of the electorate submit a completed form saying as much, the city will have to hold a referendum on the road alignment.

The referendum would not impede the road works, just the potential alignment into park lands.

 

Green Timbers: A historic fight for trees

In the early 1900s, Green Timbers forest – then 5,000 acres – was the last untouched swath of old growth trees between San Diego and Vancouver.

People travelled from afar to see the huge cathedral of trees.

Despite calls to turn the area into park, in 1929 the forest was clearcut and bucked up for lumber.

On March 15, 1930, a group of people, spearheaded by the B.C. Forest Service, gathered at 140 Street and 96 Avenue and planted more than 120 saplings in B.C.’s first forest “plantation.”

Shortly after, then-B.C. premier Simon Fraser Tolmie declared that the land remain treed.

Wady LehmannOver the years, the 5,000-acre forest (five times the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park), through a series of land swaps, was reduced to the 560 acres it is today.

What remains is 1.6 square kilometres of green space that’s been vigorously defended.

In 1988, Wady (left) and Betty Lehmann were driving along 100 Avenue, when they saw a big logging truck loaded with fresh-cut timber pull out of Green Timbers forest. Betty told Wady to pull in and find out what was happening.

It turned out then-mayor Don Ross was moving ahead with the construction of a football stadium.

The Green Timbers Heritage Society was born and the plan for a stadium was quickly scotched amid public outcry.

A later plan to sell part of the forest to developers for a subdivision went to referendum in Surrey and was spiked by 97 per cent of respondents.

Now, the heritage society is gearing up for another scrap as the city plans to widen Fraser Highway from two lanes to six – plus a foot and bike path.

Wady and Betty’s daughter Susan Lehmann is taking up the charge.

More information about the park and the Green Timbers Heritage Society can be found at http://www.greentimbers.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Proudly Surrey modifies child-care policy

Slate wants to use school board property for child-care spaces

Surrey school board wants to expand French Immersion program

District had to close program at Cougar Creek Elementary due to low enrolment

VIDEO: Scarecrow festival kicks off in Port Kells

Fourth-annual event will be on until Halloween

Delta to craft whistle-blower policy

The policy is meant to increase public trust and create support for staff in questionable situations

VIDEO: North Delta Studio Stomp back for sixth year

The annual art event has local artists opening their studios to the public this weekend

Lions earn stunning 35-32 OT win over Ticats

Epic comeback lifts B.C. past Hamilton in CFL thriller

Czarnik nets 3 as Flames dump Canucks 5-2

Calgary picks up exhibition win over Vancouver

Ottawa to name new ambassador for women, peace and security, Freeland says

Chrystia Freeland also confirmed Canada would spend about $25 million to fund number of initiatives

‘A little bright spot:’ Ottawa residents rescue dog trapped beneath rubble

Freelance journalist says rescue of a dog trapped under rubble was happy ending amid chaos in Ottawa

B.C. deaf community wants different sign languages on federal accessibility act

Advocates also want Indigenous Sign Language to be recognized on the Indigenous Language Act

Remainder of Vancouver Whitecaps season filled with ‘must-win’ games: coach

With Vancouver currently sitting four points out of a post-season spot, each contest is crucial

VIDEO: B.C.-born firefighter remembered by MP in emotional speech

Family asks first responders to look after one another in wake of suicide, growing concerns of PTSD

Airline has ‘close call’ with drone while en route to B.C. airport

Jazz Aviation reported the drone sighting near Vancouver to the RCMP and Transport Canada

Most Read