A park in Newton was buzzing with volunteers removing invasive species recently, but the evening wasn’t all about habitat restoration.
Members of SNAP (Surrey’s Natural Areas Partnership) and SYSS (Surrey Youth Stewardship Squad) were at Hazelnut Meadows Park in Newton to remove blackberry bushes, an invasive species, but Shenae Borschneck, the program co-ordinator for SNAP, said the day was mainly about SNAP youth getting to mentor SYSS volunteers aged 13 to 17.
“It kind of shows them a career option, potentially, because SNAP is a great stepping stone for people wanting to get into conservation or any type of environmental work.”
Borschneck said the youth are at an age where they are “trying to figure out a career direction.” She said it’s a good mentoring opportunity.
SYSS members, she said, can talk to SNAP students who are currently in school for conservation or urban forestry, “and kind of pick their brains and help them decide where they want to go career wise.”
For Tony Zang, who just graduated from the urban forestry program at UBC, helping out with SNAP is exactly the stepping stone he needs.
“It just provides a great experience to get some field work in and get exposure, especially since they have a close affiliation with the City of Surrey,” he said.
This is Zang’s second time working with SNAP, adding that he was part of a team two years ago.
“That was my first field-work position and it was a lot of discovering what I was good at, what I wasn’t good at. It was a lot of learning new things,” he said. “I’m in the urban forestry program, but two years ago, I was just starting out, didn’t really understand too much about it and it was a great way to put the lessons I learned in class into utilization while I was in the field.”
It’s a different case for Tarvin Bhatti who is planning to study kinesiology at SFU starting this fall.
“The first time I found out about SNAP was actually through the Canada Summer Job bank app, so I was just looking for a job in the summer just to spend my last summer before university to try and raise some money for my education as well.”
Tarvin Bhatti during the invasive species removal at Hazelnut Meadows Park in Newton on Aug. 9. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
But Bhatti lives near the park and he said that knowing he can have a positive impact in the community is a “great experience.”
“Just knowing that I have an impact, a positive impact especially, in my own city and helping the kids and being able to teach them what I’ve learned… I’ve learned so much with this job already and I that can share that with the kids today is also a good opportunity.”
Going into the job, Bhatti said he had some background knowledge of invasive species.
“I kind of knew what some invasive were,” Bhatti said, “but honestly, I hadn’t even been to half the parks we’ve (now) been to and just being able to know and understand how the parks work, how the organization works, how the surrey operations centre (works)… it’s a great, valuable experience that I’ve just felt is rare to have.”
Borschneck said SNAP is a partnership between the City of Surrey, with three non-profit partners Green Timbers Heritage Society, White Rock and Surrey Naturalists and the Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society.
SNAP’s website says habitat restoration is “a long process,” so each year teams return to previous sites “to build on the work done by previous SNAP teams and ensure the longevity of our natural areas.”
Borschneck said invasive species removal at Hazelnut Meadows has been going on for a few years, mainly removing blackberry bushes.
There are also upcoming planting events for families throughout the city. First is Bose Forest Park (6203 164th St.) on Oct. 5, next is Bolivar Park 13400-block of 115th Ave.) on Oct. 12, then it’s Walnut Park (16265 82nd Ave.) on Oct. 19, Goodwin Farm Biodiversity Preserve Park (9016 164th St.) on Oct. 26 and Elgin Heritage Park (13500-block of Crescent Road) on Nov. 2.