NEWTON — Newton’s Bark Park has been about a year in the making and is ready for its grand opening on Saturday (Aug. 27).
With no plans in the next several years to develop a piece of property along 70A Avenue, just off of King George Boulevard, the community and Newton BIA came together to “activate” the street, which has been known as a hot spot for prostitution and drug use for some time.
The conversation began about two years ago when Value Group acquired lots in the area, and the idea to do something with the dormant properties was born.
“We have to start somewhere – and we have to start with the root problems,” said Newton BIA director Philip Aguirre. “There will be massive redevelopment for Newton over the next 10 years, we want to involve both sides of the street. We need vision, but we also have to do grassroots movements. That’s what this is.”
Volunteer Sherry Simms (pictured, left, with another volunteer, Dolore Poirier Willbourn) is a local resident and got involved in the initiative last summer.
“Being a dog owner, I wanted to get involved and help,” she told the Now. “But also just the nature of the neighbourhood: We wanted to make sure this area had a few more eyes on it, trying to kind of clean up the area and make it a little safer.
“It was definitely not easy,” she added. “We got a lot of help from various people.”
Contractors helped with discounts and free supplies, and community members volunteered to help build.
“We did a community build day, and we had about 19 volunteers come out to put up the fence,” said Simms. “(NDP MLA) Harry Bains came out and brought water for the volunteers. We also had volunteers from the John Volken (Recovery) Academy, and the Newton BIA’s Team Tidy.”
The City of Surrey pitched in with a $3,000 grant. Rona has also been “awesome” by giving them a shed, she added.
The fences went up in June, the final touches are now complete and Simms wants everyone to know the park is ready.
The event this Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 13538 70A Ave., will offer up free doggie treats from Pet Food ’N More.
“It’s a community project so we all need to pitch in to make sure it’s successful,” said Simms. “So on Saturday people will be able to sign up to help with maintenance and garbage pickup.”
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Colleen Kerr, Surrey’s Crime Reduction Strategy manager, said she hopes this initiative can “start the process of change.”
She called the initiative a good news “community-building” story.
“Anything we do here is temporary. The landowner will be developing it in three to five years potentially, but for now it can be changed into anything,” said Kerr.
It’s a model she hopes to see utilized in other areas – bringing developers and community together to reinvigorate problem properties while they sit waiting for development.