Roy Strang, in the heart of Sunnyside Acres – the forest he helped gain protect status for 30 years ago – in South Surrey. Strang died Sunday at the age of 94. (File photo)

Roy Strang, in the heart of Sunnyside Acres – the forest he helped gain protect status for 30 years ago – in South Surrey. Strang died Sunday at the age of 94. (File photo)

Sunnyside Acres advocate remembered for passion, knowledge, devotion to family

Longtime columnist, environmental activist Roy Strang, 94, has died

One of the Semiahmoo Peninsula’s most ardent environmental activists – as well as newspaper columnist and longtime supporter of Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest – has died.

Roy Strang, 94, passed away Sunday, his daughter Catriona told Peace Arch News.

Strang, a retired forester, is most well-known locally for his decades-long efforts to preserve, and raise awareness of the importance of, Sunnyside Acres.

The South Surrey greenspace has been a protected urban forest since 1988, following a grassroots campaign – led by Strang and others – that was successful in seeing the second-growth forest preserved from future development.

Even after the forest received protected status, Strang continued to advocate for it, and routinely led tours of the area for students and others.

He also spent many years at the helm of the City of Surrey’s environmental advisory committee, and he also served as a community policing volunteer in South Surrey.

Longtime Semiahmoo Peninsula politician Gordie Hogg – who has served as White Rock mayor, MLA and MP – said Strang would often pop into his office to chat about different local issues, and those conversations were always peppered with intelligent debate, insight and humour.

“He just had such a wonderful way about himself,” Hogg said. “He was so passionate about people and about the environment, and the connection between the two of them. He was so engaging, and he wanted to talk about the things that were important to him.”

Strang became “the go-to person” on local environmental issues, Hogg noted, not just because of his knowledge, but because of how he carried himself. It’s that pleasant demeanour that helped propel the Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest project into reality, Hogg said.

“It was because of his approach… his passion and caring – all of those things,” he said.

“It’s that old notion that it’s not what you do, but why you do it, that’s important. And why Roy was doing it was because he cared about our community, he cared about people and he cared about the future.”

Strang was a former Surrey Citizen of the Year honouree; he received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal in 2002 and was presented the Order of White Rock in 2008. In 2014, he was named a winner of a Surrey City Award for his preservation efforts, and in 2017 he accepted a Heritage in the City Award on behalf of the Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society, which he helped create.

Born in London, England and raised in Scotland, Strang earned a PhD from the University of London, and his work as a forester took him to eastern and southern Africa, where he lived for nearly two decades before immigrating with his family to Canada.

In Canada, he worked for the federal government, and taught in the department of forestry and plant sciences at UBC and later at BCIT.

Her dad, Catriona said, regularly played the bagpipes at Burns Night celebrations; was an avid rugby fan who also loved mountain climbing and sailing, and most of all, “was devoted to his family.”

Strang and his wife Alison, who were married more than 60 years, were longtime Semiahmoo Peninsula residents before moving to Vancouver a few years ago. Alison – an author and world-renowned expert and breeder of Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers who, like her husband, was well-known in the community – passed away in 2018.

Strang wrote weekly for PAN about environmental issues, beginning in 2006, and after a brief hiatus in 2010, returned in 2011 on a monthly basis. He retired from regular column writing in 2015, but still wrote sporadically for PAN.

He also penned a book, Sunnyside Story, that details the history of the urban forest and the fight to protect it.

Former PAN editor Lance Peverley said Strang “never shied away from voicing an unpopular opinion if it propelled the conversation.”

“I like to sound out,” Strang told PAN in a 2015 story announcing his retirement – which turned out to be temporary – from column writing. He once again began writing monthly in 2019.

Strang’s final column, which has yet to be published, was filed to PAN in late August.

And though he was frequently honoured for his environmental work in both Surrey and White Rock, Strang wasn’t afraid to butt heads with those in power. In the early 2000s, upon leaving Surrey’s environmental advisory committee – along with a few others – he expressed frustration with the city and its apparent lack of commitment to environmental issues, saying, “We may be the watchdog, but we have no teeth.”

Strang is survived by his five children, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.



editorial@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City of SurreyEnvironment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – check point at Manning Park

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Man charged after multiple mail thefts in Surrey: RCMP

Police say man was reported to be carrying a crowbar and looking into vehicles

Dr. Bonnie Henry B.C.'s provincial health officer, updates the COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
Province ‘ramping up’ COVID-19 vaccination effort in hard-hit Surrey

‘Door-to-door’ registration program in the works, says Dr. Bonnie Henry

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Serena Deol, Jaspreet Deol, Madison Sweeney and Tanveer Pannu (pictured clockwise from top left) are Surrey United soccer players recruited to the University of Fraser Valley. (submitted photos)
Surrey United soccer quartet sign to play for UFV Cascades

Three of the university’s recruits are Panorama Ridge Secondary students

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read