Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society, at the site of the Surrey forest’s inaugural plantation in 1930. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society, at the site of the Surrey forest’s inaugural plantation in 1930. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

SURREY NOW & THEN: Green Timbers’ inaugural plantation began ‘cultural shift’ in B.C.

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people

B.C.’s reforestation efforts began 91 years ago in Surrey with the “inaugural plantation” of Green Timbers Urban Forest.

Not surprisingly, not all of those 120 trees have survived a century of radical change in the area.

Back in 1928, Surrey-area citizens protested the proposed logging of the area, but concerns were ignored and the entire 2,000-acre forest was chopped down.

“This was the last virgin forest that remained along the Pacific Highway that stretched from San Diego, California to Surrey, British Columbia,” notes a post on

Chastised, the provincial government of the time looked to make amends by setting aside 640 acres along the highway (now Fraser Highway) to be replanted as B.C.’s first reforestation project.

And so, in 1930, the death of the last old-growth trees in the area led to an awakening of sorts, with a new forest given life in the heart of the municipality.

On March 15 that year, on land cleared by locals Harry Baker and John Tompson, government and business officials gathered to plant 120 Douglas fir, Sikta spruce, Western red cedar and Monterey pine seedlings, each numbered and assigned a name.

Heritage signs and storyboards now mark the plantation site, a short walk from Surrey Nature Centre, 14225 Green Timbers Way.

“The event really started a cultural shift in the province, because they’d been cutting down all these trees and they thought, ‘Well, there won’t be an end to them all, there are so many trees,’” said Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society. “Well, we know that’s not the case. So they started planting trees, and it started right here.”

• RELATED STORY: City of Surrey seeks residents’ input on urban tree strategy.

The heritage society was established in 1987, in a fight to save the forest from urban development. A sports stadium was proposed on land where the man-made lake was later created. Referendums were passed, preserving Green Timbers Urban Forest.

Schuetze, son of the society’s first president, Herman Schuetze, remembers visiting the forest as a kid.

“We used to live in the area and did school trips here, and one of the exercises was, we had to stand over there and calculate how tall these trees were, through trigonometry or whatever,” Schuetze recalled. “And this here, a straight line of trees that you can still see, is part of the original hedge that separated the nursery from what was planted here. You can follow this line of trees across the road and behind the RCMP building, the same hedge and the ditch here.”


The story of the inaugural plantation is told on One photo shows MLA John W. Berry planting tree #2, along with Colonel Nelson Spencer, young Tom Berry, MLA Mike Manson, Peter Z. Caverhill (chief engineer) and Ed Walmsley (land agent).

The photo caption says: “The inaugural plantation was left practically untended for 58 years when, in 1988, Herman Scheutze and Rick Govier, two co-founders of Green Timbers Heritage Society with the help of Jim Foulkes, a surveyor and member of the Surrey Heritage Society, succeeded in locating the overgrown inaugural stand and its surviving trees.”

Schuetze remembers his father constantly writing letters, struggling with a manual typewriter. “He was missing a finger from a wood mill accident which probably didn’t help either,” the current society president said.

In 1990, a “commemorative plantation” was done at Green Timbers to mark the 60th anniversary of the inaugural plantation. “Nearby is the two-billionth forestry tree seedling planted in the province in 1989, and 20 more seedlings were planted to commemorate the Millennium in 2000,” says a post on

Not all of the trees planted in 1930 have survived, Schuetze noted.

“One of the trees had to be cut down last spring,” he said, “because it posed a danger to people walking through here, so not all of them are in great shape and are leaning a bit, you know.”

This week, as part of the city’s annual Environmental Extravaganza, Green Timbers Heritage Society is hosting a “Selfie Scavenger Hunt” to encourage exploration of the forest.

“Find at least five of the locations, featured wildlife and plants on the list below in Surrey’s Green Timber’s Urban Forest and Park,” says a post on “Post a selfie of each item in the list to social media with the hashtag #GTUF2021 to be entered into a draw for great prizes. Winners will be messaged via Instagram after June 8, 2021.” The items include beaver lodge, glacial erratic, ferns, birds, flowers, tree cones, insects and more.

“There’s so much history here aside from the inaugural plantation, including an arboretum and the 60th-anniversary planting,” Schuetze said. “I always enjoy visiting here.

“Now there’s this emphasis on trees as a form of livability and there’s the phrase ‘forest bathing,’ which is about being in the forest and soaking in the air, how it does something to you – you feel better after going for a walk in the woods, you just do. Humans are just wired that way, that we need green things around us, especially trees.”

Surrey Now & Then is a look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people. Email story ideas and tips to We thank Surrey Archives for assistance with this series.

CLICK HERE to read more SURREY NOW & THEN stories.

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter


Just Posted

People were lined up around the fields at a drop-in vaccine clinic at Newton Athletic Park on Tuesday (April 27, 2021), which is one of the high-transmission neighbourhoods that are being given vaccine priority. This clinic was one of at least three to open in the city on Tuesday. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s weekly cases continue to drop, push for 80% vaccination rate citywide

BCCDC reports 263 cases for Surrey the week of May 30 to June 5

Friends of Bear Creek Park held a ‘yellow-ribbon event’ on Saturday (June 12, 2021), with protesters at 84th Avenue and King George Boulevard and 84th Avenue and 140th Street. People were asked to tie a yellow ribbon in their yard “to celebrate and to show support for our trees in Bear Creek Park.” (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Protesters hold ‘yellow-ribbon’ event at Surrey’s Bear Creek Park

People asked to tie a yellow ribbon in their yard to ‘show support for our trees’

Fleetwood Park Secondary School’s 2021 commencement ceremonies were held over the course of two days, June 10 and 11. Grads went through a small, distanced ceremony in groups of four, with up to four members of the grad’s household. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Surrey’s 2021 grads find creative ways to celebrate in another year of COVID-19

This year’s Grade 12 students were unable to have any large-scale events

Hundreds gathered at Surrey’s Holland Park Friday (June 11) in memory of the Muslim family killed in London, Ont. on Sunday (June 6). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Hundreds gather at Surrey park in memory of victims in London attack

Vigil organized by Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians

(Photo: metro creative stock)
Canada India Network Society hosts event on chronic disease

2021 event coincides with International Day of Yoga

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read