Roslyn Cassells, left, cries outside B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster after a judge dismissed her bid to halt Surrey’s construction plans for Hawthorne Park. (Photo: Amy Reid)

VIDEO: Hawthorne Park fight not over after judge dismisses bid to halt plans

BC Supreme Court judge says “there’s nothing I can do to intervene” because City of Surrey has law on its side

SURREY — Construction of a road through Hawthorne Park will begin this week after a Surrey woman lost her bid in court to halt the controversial project.

The City of Surrey said trees were set to be cut down Tuesday, following the Monday afternoon decision in New Westminster Supreme Court.

Justice T. Mark McEwan dismissed Roslyn Cassells’ petition to stop construction work. Most of Cassells’ argument centred around protection of the endangered Pacific Water Shrew, which likely resides in the park, among other protected species.

Cassells argued the city’s survey of the valuable habitat wasn’t thorough enough but the judge determined that the city had fulfilled all of the legal requirements.

McEwan said while Cassells had “all the best intentions in the world” the city has shown “they have the law on their side.”

McEwan said “they have done more than is necessary.”

“There is nothing I can do to intervene,” he concluded.

In her petition, filed on Dec. 29, Cassells argued the city, with its 105 Avenue Road connector project, failed to survey and identify species in the north Surrey park and take steps to protect them. Thus, her petition reads, the city’s contentious project violates the Species at Risk Act and B.C. Wildlife Act.

“The city just released their draft Environmental Impact Assessment Report to the public on Dec. 20. I and many others have serious concerns about the report,” Cassells’ petition reads.

“The final report has not yet been released and the city has said they will release it to the public in mid or late January, after the destruction of possible critical habitats and endangered, threatened, and of special concern species are killed.

“For this reason I ask the court to halt construction on this project until such time as the City obeys their duties under SARA (Species at Risk Act) and the BC Wildlife Act and surveys for the presence of Species At Risk and their habitats and provides them with the protections they are entitled to under federal and provincial laws.”

But in court, the City of Surrey’s lawyer Philip Huynh said the city has fulfilled its legal obligations.

Huynh also said Cassells did not have legal standing to bring the action forward.

The road is necessary to reduce congestion and improve connectivity in the neighbourhood, Huynh told the court. The construction work is urgent and can not be delayed, Huynh noted, so as to not impact bird nesting season in the park. Huynh said the city had a contractor standing by, but not working, awaiting the results of the court on Monday.

Outside the courthouse, an emotional Cassells said the dismissal was “very disappointing,” but insisted the fight isn’t over.

“A powerful city like the City of Surrey, with all their assets, are busy paving over the last few bits of habitat for these endangered species and it’s an act of supreme selfishness and cruelty,” she said, her voice breaking. “I ask the citizens of Surrey to stand with me and others in the next municipal election to get rid of these people who put money before people and put money before wildlife and green space.”

Cassells, a former Vancouver parks commissioner, says she is appalled at the “disregard” the City of Surrey has shown towards environmental protection.

“As usual,” she said, “city council is running roughshod over the lives of the most vulnerable members of our society – in this case it is the animals – all to please their developer friends who want this road, and in violation of the will of over 11,000 Surrey residents opposed to the project.”

See also: VIDEO: Save Hawthorne Park members stage protest against tree cutting for road in Surrey Park

See also: Surrey woman asks B.C. Supreme Court to halt city’s Hawthorne Road project

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner recently told the Now-Leader that the 105 Avenue Connector Road project will improve access, circulation, and connectivity for the community between City Centre and Guildford, as well as improving the local transportation network.

Hepner insisted that the size of Hawthorne Rotary Park will not be diminished by the project. “In fact, as part of the 105 Avenue Connector project, the City has been actively working on acquiring new lands to preserve as parkland, including high quality bio-diverse properties adjacent to the existing park,” she said. “The land acquisitions will grow Hawthorne Rotary Park by more than one acre over its current size and add more than 200 new and substantial trees.”

Meanwhile, a group called Save Hawthorne Rotary Park, led by Steven Pettigrew, has been fighting city hall’s plan to run a road through the park since its conception. On Monday, Pettigrew said the B.C. Supreme Court’s dismissal of Cassels’ petition isn’t deterring the group. “We have other things on the go that are coming out soon,” he said. “This is the week.”

Pettigrew recently told the Now-Leader that members of his group are prepared to block bulldozers, if it comes to that.

That was expected to happen Tuesday or Wednesday morning this week.

“We do have hundreds of people that have committed to standing in front of the tractors.”

On Tuesday morning, Project Manager Victor Jhingan told the Now-Leader trees were set to be felled later that day.

The contractor had already been undertaking preparation work for tree clearing on Monday, installing fencing and doing sediment control and other environmental protection work to ensure the site is secure before clearing begins, said Jhingan.

“By the end of this week work should be done for trees to be felled… and excavation would begin to make way for the road struction…. Over the next few months you’ll see a lot of earth works being done, removal of material and importing granular materials to allow for the ground to settle… road construction will start after that.”

The City of Surrey has awarded the contract to complete phase one of the Hawthorne Park project to Tybo Contracting Ltd. Phase one of the contract is expected to be finished by Sept. 28, 2018. Estimates show that phase one should cost about $11.25 million.

With files from Beau Simpson

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Photo: Laura Savage Signage and fencing has been erected as the city prepares to cut down trees in Hawthorne Park.

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