It wasn’t always that way.
Shirley Goodwin, who has lived across the street from the park for nearly 60 years, remembers the Holland family that lived on the north side of the property, on a clearing near Old Yale Road, down a path through the woods.
The land was well forested back in the 1960s and ’70s, with increasing development into the 2000s.
Today, the clearing could be called “Holland Rock Concert Venue,” laments Goodwin, who says the park is a long way from Alice Holland’s vision of a peaceful green place to be shared by all.
In 1959 the Hollands were allowed to stay on the property after they’d sold it to the Corporation of Surrey for $48,000, according to a 1969 report in the Columbian newspaper, on condition that it be dedicated as park land. The promise has been kept, but over the years an “urban park” was developed for the staging of large gatherings including Surrey Fusion Festival and FVDED in the Park music festival.
“The park is being used as a venue for a lot of things it shouldn’t be used for,” Goodwin said during a walk through the park.
“I’m OK with events there,” she underlined, “because they need somewhere to hold the community festivals, that’s fine. But I really think they should stop stealing bits and pieces for parking lots like they do. It’s a crying shame that they built a gravel parking lot across from me. We don’t need more parking lots, we need to keep what’s left of the park.”
A parks annual report in 1959 says the Holland property had “considerable historical value and was settled in the very early days of the municipality. This block of land was the last remaining sizable parcel in this rapidly building area and will assure for all time a ‘green spot’ in this densely populated part of the community.”
Alice Holland lived alone on the land in the 1970s and, as part of the family’s deal with the municipality, had life tenancy there until her death, in 1981 at age 78.
In 1969, Ms. Holland protested when a developer announced plans to build a $18-million shopping mall, later named Surrey Place, to the north of the house she shared with her 90-year-old mother at the time. A new road through the property was pitched, and Holland wouldn’t budge.
Formally dedicated in 1973, Holland Park was further developed into an urban park in the mid-2000s, with an official opening in 2008.
Surrey Archives stores newspaper clippings and photos of Holland Park through the years, including one of the Holland house in 1972, aerial views, bulldozing, sod-turning events and snapshots of Alice Holland on the property.
“We talked to her sometimes,” Goodwin recalled, “and she’d tell us about her parents and the horses and wagons that used to be there, because it was kind of a stopping place for people who were travelling through.
“All my kids, all the neighbourhood kids, they used to play in this park and had a whale of a time in the bush,” Goodwin continued. “That was when Ms. Holland owned it and also later, when it became a park. She didn’t mind the kids there and she used to come out and talk to them and tell the the history of the park and about all the trees and plants.”
Many of those trees and plants were cleared out years ago to create the Holland Park of today. To the south, houses that once lined 98B Avenue have also slowly disappeared, and construction of more towers continues along King George Boulevard.
“It was so peaceful on our street for years, but it’s changed so much,” Goodwin said. “I remember when it was a gravel road, and we could make a left turn onto King George, no problem. It was just a stop sign there. It’s sure changed, my goodness.”
In July, the annual FVDED festival was again the loudest event of the summer at Holland Park, filling the neighbourhood with electronic, rap and R&B music enjoyed by tens of thousands of ticketholders.
“It was noisy,” Goodwin reported, “but the worst part of it was them getting ready for it for a week, and then it was another week cleaning it up.
“I phoned the city because they had piles and piles of garbage here for days, and it just stunk like you wouldn’t believe,” she added. “It’s nice to have a festival but you wouldn’t believe the garbage, in that parking lot they built. And they had all the fencing — they fenced off the whole park and nobody else was allowed in the park at all that weekend. Ms. Holland wouldn’t have liked that, I’m certain.”
Surrey Now & Then is a look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people. Email story ideas and tips to email@example.com. We thank Surrey Archives for assistance with this series.