Unknown number of trees in Green Timbers will fall to make way for LRT in Surrey

SURREY — Trees will fall in Green Timbers Urban Forest to make way for more lanes and light rail transit along Fraser Highway.

The City of Surrey is starting design work for the roadwidening project, which will stretch from Whalley Boulevard to 148th Street along the busy corridor.

The city plans to create four vehicle lanes (two in each direction), combined shoulder and bicycle lanes, a centrerunning LRT (one track in each direction) and a combined pedestrian and cycling path on the north side.

Jaime Boan, Surrey’s transportation manager, said it’s not yet known how many trees will be impacted.

More than 200 acres of the forest was dedicated through public referendum in 1988, and another 51 were added in 1996.

Most of the trees to fall will be outside of the dedicated forest, noted Boan, as through public referenda a road width of up to 40 metres was approved between 140th and 148th streets.

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"There are trees within that 40-metre distance currently, so there are trees that are in the road allowance that would have to be removed."

But some dedicated forest may need to go to accommodate left-turn lanes, he said.

Changes to the boundaries will have to be approved by holding another referendum, or through an "alternative approval process," says a city report.

It suggests the latter. Boan said the city plans to align the roadway so as to minimize the number of trees that will have to come down.

More forest will be dedicated than removed, according to a report to council, as there are plans to convert some lands currently slated for road allowances back to parks inventory – a total of 6.9 net acres being potentially added as dedicated forest.

"We see a win-win there." The Green Timbers Urban Forest Advisory Committee has raised concerns about habitat and tree loss, increased risk of wildlife road-kills and the road edge effects of chemical noise and pollution to the forest.

Jim Foulkes, of the Green Timbers Heritage Society, told the Now last year that there’s always pressure on the forest, and that he’d fight to preserve the natural area. He called it Surrey’s Stanley Park.

"With the city growing and growing, it’s hard to keep large properties untouched," he said.

In 2005, it was announced the 500,000-square-foot RCMP E-Divison Headquarters would be built in Green Timbers on approximately 35 acres.

And in 2011, the 188,000-square-foot Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre opened, built on 5.8 acres.

"It’s been whittled away – acreage here, acreage there," said Foulkes.

Boan said the city’s hope is to begin construction for the west section of the project – not the area of protected forest – in 2017.

areid@thenownewspaper.com

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