Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Now-Leader. He can be emailed at frank.bucholtz@gmail.com.

BUCHOLTZ: Surrey trees take back seat to growth

Once again, the city is quite ready to sacrifice park land to move traffic

Surrey needs rapid transit, and it is likely there will soon be a major federal contribution to make the first phase happen.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, chair of the Mayors’ Council, said last week that the ongoing machinations surrounding the next provincial government could delay funding for the planned projects, as provincial participation is part of overall funding. He made his comments as the prime minister was announcing $1 billion for a new rapid transit project in Montreal.

The city isn’t waiting for that moment. It has allocated $58 million for “early works in phase one” of TransLink’s 10-year transit investment plan. Phase one includes construction of the LRT line along King George Boulevard from Newton to 104th Avenue, and east to Guildford.

One of these “early works” is the relocation of water mains on 104th Avenue. They are to be moved alongside a new road on the 105th Avenue alignment, which is proposed to run through the southern portion of Hawthorne Park. Work is supposed to begin in August – at the height of the summer season.

SEE ALSO: Historical society says Surrey is allowing too many trees to fall

This cavalier treatment of parkland is problematic. Once again, the city is quite ready to sacrifice parkland to move traffic. It tried to do this in Bear Creek Park, and met significant opposition. People who live near Hawthorne Park – a rare jewel of forested land north of 104th Avenue – are also fighting back.

The park has playgrounds and open space but also is easily accessible with walking trails from surrounding neighbourhoods.

Close to 300 showed up at a public meeting about the 105th Avenue connector on June 7, and more than 2,000 have signed a petition opposing the loss of parkland.

SEE ALSO: Hundreds attend Surrey open house about roads through Hawthorne Park

Green Timbers itself is also under threat from future transportation projects. Either an LRT or SkyTrain line will be built through the forest along Fraser Highway. If it’s LRT, there will be significant destruction of trees – planted in the 1930s as part of B.C.’s first large-scale reforestation project – on both sides of the road, which Surrey wants to widen to four lanes.

Green Timbers is also being whittled away as part of the “early works,” as the city widens 100th Avenue to four lanes. That road itself was built through Green Timbers in the early 1980s by a Surrey administration that saw trees as an unnecessary encumbrance to growth.

Trees have been cut on both sides of 100th Avenue, including a pleasant grove that shaded Lena Shaw Elementary north of 100th.

Few people would argue that rapid transit isn’t necessary in Surrey, given its rapid growth. Nor would they argue that a line along King George and 104th is given first priority.

However, in a city where parkland is unevenly distributed, with much of it located in less-populated South Surrey, there needs to be better consideration given to the impact on parks of new roads and transportation corridors.

The city should take a closer look at its plans and see if Hawthorne Park can be spared.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Now-Leader. He can be emailed at frank.bucholtz@gmail.com.

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