Open letter to Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner.
The Surrey Historical Society advocates the importance of all items of historical significance, including those in the ‘natural’ category.
Our parks and neighbourhoods have long been recognized as among the most beautiful in Metro Vancouver, because of our trees. Surrey was rightfully named, “The City of Parks.” Now it is labeled, “City of Surrey: The future lives here!”
Let us continue to acknowledge that large heritage trees are also part of the future.
Most of Surrey was logged and stumps cleared during the late-1800s through the 1940s. Yes, the trees were valuable for the economy, for buildings, fences, poles and firewood. But even farmers who cleared large areas for pasture, grains and gardens kept or planted trees around their homes, and also for agricultural windbreaks, along riparian areas, and for woodlots where dairy herds bedded.
These trees have been growing for many long years, and many of them are included in Surrey’s impressive List of Heritage Trees. These Heritage Trees grow on both public and private properties, but we are distressed to see so many trees of significant size removed from city-owned properties, such as parks, dykes, roadsides, cemeteries and schools.
We wonder why the large maples and cedars were felled at Bose Forest Park, trees along 184 Street, the cottonwoods on the dykes, the yew tree and Douglas Fir at Surrey Centre Cemetery, the tall trees along the schoolground across from the Green Timbers Forest on 100 Avenue. And why have healthy trees been cut along sidewalk areas in developments along 156 Street near 104 Avenue?
It seems trees are felled at most new developments, without any consideration for the attraction, sentiment and value of these trees. Do the developers just consider the resulting fees part of their expenses? Is there a program to educate private owners and developers?
Trees are needed to strengthen the dykes, to provide oxygen for every living thing, to give shade, to provide shelter for birds and animals, to provide borders and protection, a natural heritage that we all enjoy.
We are always advised that thousands of young trees are planted in Surrey each year, which is commendable, but we also desire to see the old ones remain, standing tall and proud.
Surrey has many Tree Protection ByLaw regulations about development a certain distance from road edges or sidewalks or property lines, etc. And there are specific regulations on how to prevent damage to significant trees.
So how do the developers minimize setback variances?
This precludes any trees of significant size being left along borders and streetscapes, between houses, along playgrounds, etc.
As noted recently in the Peace Arch News, an example of development getting its way, is the long stretch along 168 Street in South Surrey. It’s shocking!
The Surrey Historical Society is hopeful the City will re-address its attention to all older trees, including those of historical significance, and renew their determination to preserve them.
Michael Gibbs, Surrey
Historical Society president