Adrian Bilodeau (also pictured below) adds Christmas lights to a tree in the garden he started on city property in 2008 as a tribute to his father.

Borrowed time for South Surrey garden

City warns days are numbered for South Surrey 'Gratitude Garden'

Adrian Bilodeau can imagine himself, years from now, returning with his as-yet unborn son to relax in the community garden he started in South Surrey as a tribute to his father nearly a decade ago.

“…if I’m so lucky,” he said, during a visit to the snow-covered space Wednesday, where he added Christmas lights to some of its features.

“I don’t like fighting, but this is one thing that I’ve got to fight for.”

Bilodeau learned a few days earlier that the garden – located on city land described as unopened road on 156 Street near King George Boulevard – is at risk. The news arrived via email from the City of Surrey’s realty-services division.

“The City has now completed their initial review process and will be proceeding with the closure of this portion of road,” the Dec. 8 message advises. “Once title is raised, the City intends to sell the said lot sometime early next year.”

Adrian BilodeauBilodeau said he was “thrown back” by the notice, which the email explains was provided “as a courtesy (as) this area has had some sentimental value for you and the surrounding neighbours.”

He hopes those same neighbours – and anyone else who sees value in the garden – will add their voice to his to help save it.

Listening to Bilodeau speak of the garden – from how it began, to the people he has met while tending it – it’s clear the words “some sentimental value” are an understatement.

Started as a small plot on the lot’s northwest corner in 2008, shortly after his dad, Adrian Sr., died, the garden grew as the years passed to stretch along the western border, complete with a stone Inukshuk that is often seen holding a flower or other item. Wednesday, it was holding a small Christmas present.

Elements were added within the lot, which was already home to mature cherry and holly trees. Bilodeau installed benches – and a stool for one senior who always stopped to chat but who was growing weary – and a food-garden component complete with blueberries, raspberries and squash. The newest addition, which includes trees and plants purchased with a City of Surrey beautification grant this year, is highlighted by a wishing well.

Bilodeau said the appreciation passersby over the years has been a driving force behind his passion for maintaining and growing the garden – informally dubbed Gratitude Garden Park – even after moving away from South Surrey in September. He estimates he’s put around 8,000 hours into it over the years.

“It was just a really good thing,” he said. “Giving back to the community, and feeling part of it, as well.

“You see the appreciation from the people. That’s what drove me to keep going. I always loved hearing stories and what have you.”

Bilodeau noted that if the lot is sold and the garden cleared for redevelopment, wildlife will also be impacted; from hummingbirds and bunnies, to owls and honeybees.

In an effort to preserve the garden, he is appealing to City of Surrey officials this week, and hopes others will do the same.

“Small pieces like this parkland are fleeting faster all the time,” Bilodeau said.“It’s probably down to the wire, if this isn’t stopped.”

The city’s realty-services manager, Nicholas Rawcliffe, said Thursday that consideration to sell was prompted by an inquiry from a potential buyer, however, “no firm decision” has been made. Any sale would be subject to council approval, he added.

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