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South Surrey senior feels 'shunted aside'
A Surrey senior who was bumped from city committee to city committee in a quest to be heard has vowed to continue her fight to save trees in her Grandview Heights neighbourhood – and champion a significant tract of city land as a heritage park.
And Coun. Barinder Rasode – after hearing of the “obstacles” Sybil Rowe has faced so far – is backing the senior’s appeal to be properly heard.
Rasode said she will introduce a motion Monday calling for Rowe’s concerns to be heard by a full committee meeting of council.
Rowe, 78, said she was ready to throw in the towel this week after learning that a presentation she was preparing would not be included in the agenda of Wednesday’s environmental sustainability advisory committee meeting.
The reason given? Because she appeared before the parks, recreation, sports and tourism committee on April 16.
At that meeting, chair Coun. Linda Hepner told Rowe she needed to address her concerns over tree preservation to the environment committee.
The irony, Rowe said, is that she had never wanted to address the parks committee, but had been referred there by council.
Rowe said her concerns with preservation of the neighbourhood in the face of rapidly encroaching development are “complex, interwoven issues” that would have best been addressed at a regular council meeting – what she had requested in the first place.
“I feel like I have been shunted aside,” said Rowe, who gathered 730 signatures on a petition supporting her proposal, as well as her philosophic position that development in the area is too rapid and all-encompassing.
She said she also felt she had been “disrespected” at the parks meeting. She described being interrupted several times, cut short and ignored by committee members who said tree preservation was beyond the group’s purview.
“I felt humiliated,” she said. “I felt upset and I got rattled – I didn’t do a good presentation.”
The one bright side, she said, was the support she received from two observers – eight-year-old Southridge School student Jack Christofferson, who interviewed Rowe for a school presentation after reading her story in the Peace Arch News last month, and area resident Veronica Zerr, who shares Rowe’s concerns for the area’s preservation.
Rasode said Wednesday she regrets being part of the council decision that referred Rowe’s application to the parks committee and feels “quite badly about the lack of interest in hearing her concerns and being left in limbo.”
“I don’t believe someone who is volunteering in the community should face these obstacles to being heard,” she said.
Rasode said she has long supported a staff position that would ensure such input reaches the appropriate audience.
Hepner told PAN that Rowe was “a lovely lady,” that she “respected” her and that “she had done her homework,” but said her presentation went “in several different directions.”
“I think the parks group was glad to hear her,” she said, but added that she felt Rowe had been directed to the wrong place on some issues – likely because her initial application had specifically mentioned the potential for a park on a former horse farm in the 2700-block of 168 Street.
“I said I would bring it to council’s attention that she has a petition relative to green space in the area,” Hepner said.
As far as a park is concerned, Hepner said she directed staff to assess whether the nine-acre property could be used for “tot lots” complementary to 55 acres of athletics-oriented park being created by the city to the south of it.
But Rowe said the suggestion falls far short of the heritage park she is suggesting.