A Surrey residents’ group fighting against city’s hall’s plan to run a connector road through Hawthorne Park in North Surrey staged a protest Wednesday as work crews set up a fence inside the park as a precursor to the project getting underway.
“They’re getting ready to proceed with the tearing down of the trees,” said Steven Pettigrew, leader of Save Hawthorne Park.
“We are here to show our continued support for the parks. We want to make sure that the people know that this is not a done deal, the trees are still standing, and that we want to be able to continue to encourage people to go and preserve their forest,” he told the Now-Leader.
“The city is determined to take down the forest. They’re taking down their so-called 200 trees which is actually more like 2,000 trees,” he said, “so we’re going to continue battling this until it’s done one way or another, so we’re not going to stop. The community doesn’t want this road,” he added. “This is something that’s not needed.”
The 105th Avenue connector is to join 138th Street with 150th Street. Pettigrew’s group delivered a 5,000-signature petition to city council in July calling for the project to be cancelled and the park “to be preserved for community, for future generations and for the wildlife living there.”
In response, city council challenged the petitioners with an “Alternative Approval Process” requiring them to collect by Sept. 22 the signatures of at least 10 per cent of Surrey’s electors – 30, 372 signatures – in opposition to the plan, or council would take further steps to ensure the project gets done.
The effort fell short, with the residents collecting 12,244 signatures, and in November council approved the controversial road project.
World-renowned environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki and former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum weighed in on the residents’ side. Prior to council’s vote on the matter, Pettigrew told the Now-Leader that members of his group are prepared to block bulldozers, if it comes to that.
So what’s the plan for next week?
“I guess our plan is that we respond accordingly,” Pettigrew said.
“Right now we have a bunch of things that we’re requiring the city to do and they’re basically ignoring or scrambling to try to cover them. So we’ve given them lots of legal challenges and things that we’re asking them to show proof of, and they basically haven’t done any of that… So we’ll just have to play it a bit by ear to see what happens and what we do next week. They may be starting construction on Monday, and then we’ll have to deal with that.”
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) January 3, 2018
John Werring, a senior science and policy advisor with the David Suzuki Foundation, was among the 14 protesters braving the bitter cold Wednesday morning.
“I’ve gone through all these trees,” he said. “The trees are all marked, they’re all pegged with metal tags and a lot of them are flagged. What the City of Surrey has is a bylaw that says that you must preserve significant trees, or trees over a certain size. Those are what they call trees; anything else that doesn’t fit within the bylaw is not a tree.
|John Werring. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk).|
“The arborists have gone through here and they’ve categorized over 700 trees, all marked, and then they’ve classified them as either being in poor condition, in moderate condition, healthy trees or significant trees,” Werring added.
“The city has told us they are only going to remove 200 trees for this project, but if you look at the arborist report, (it) says only significant trees must be retained, so there’s only 10 trees in this entire project that must be retained. All of the other trees, regardless of their classification, may be retained which puts a huge grey area on the protection of this forest.”
Instead of looking at tall trees, Werring said, park-goers looking to the south from the picnic tables will be looking at a roadscape “and eventually highrise apartment buildings, because the intent here is to bring LRT (Light Rail Transit) up along 104th so they can densify along 104th. They want to do what’s happening along the Canada Line and along the Expo Line. If you go to any major station there is nothing but highrises and that’s what the intent is along here as well. So there will be a little bit of green space, they’re going to put in a couple of ponds and try to make it look ‘park-y,’ but other than that, the intent is development.
“That’s what it’s all about, it’s not about people.”
“This is essentially a road to nowhere,” Werring said. “If this was a road that had significant value that, say, went from King George Highway all the way to Langley or something, well there might be some value in it.”