SURREY — As Steve Pettigrew stands in Hawthorne Park next to the fence that houses his townhouse complex, he explains a new road could soon replace the entrance to the park’s trails that he and other residents have long enjoyed.
“It’s going to go parallel to this fence,” said Pettigrew.
Pettigrew vows to fight the destruction of the “beautiful forested area” that he describes as an “oasis for the community.”
He frequently jogs in the trails, does bird watching within the forest, and even picks mushrooms there in the fall. He talks of the many animals that call the park home, including hawks, frogs, owls, bats and more.
Pettigrew worries all that will change.
The city has plans to build a two-lane road, with an additional connecting road, through the south end of Hawthorne Park. It’s called the 105th Avenue connector project.
The street, if built, would connect Whalley Boulevard to 150th Street and work is scheduled to begin in late August, according to a letter to residents.
“It’s pretty aggressive,” said Pettigrew.
He’s started a petition to stop the project and after two days, more than 1,000 people had signed it.
“Save Hawthorne Park,” Pettigrew said. “For the children, for your children, for you’re grandchildren, for the community, for the animals. See this beautiful trail here? This will be a road.
“It’s really emotional, you read the comments. It means so much,” he said of comments on the petition. “It’s memories…. You sense a real sense of ‘This is it. We’re making our stand here.’”
Pettigrew is hopeful residents can be successful in their efforts to stop the project.
“Every day I get more hopeful,” he mused. “Today, more than yesterday. To see the response from the community, that’s just a tremendous thing. I kind of liken it to trying to hold back the tide. But it has been done. I think that if we come together as a strong enough voice and if we get some political people with some backbone, I think we have a good chance of doing something. We have to at least try. If you know something’s wrong, you can’t just let it be.”
Tracie Woodhams lives in the same Hawthorne Park townhouse complex as Pettigrew.
She’s livid about the project.
“We see the barred owls in here, plus we can sit in the complex and if you see the crows going nuts, they’re chasing a red-tailed hawk. It’s absolutely amazing to watch. I can sit out here for hours watching the hawk,” she said. “It’s amazing something like this still exists in the city and they want to take it down?”
Walking through the trails, she stopped, and said, “Listen to the birds. It’ll be all gone if they put a road in here. Or the traffic will drown them out and we’ll never hear them again.”
Woodhams uses a walker and currently, uses a door along the complex’s fence to access the park.
She said the proposed road “cuts off access to our place” and she wonders how she’ll get to the park now.
“What are we doing?” she questioned. “Why are we destroying what we’ve built, what we’ve worked our lives to build and what we’ve paid taxes for years to build.
“This affects the whole of Whalley if people stop and think about it. If we don’t protect this park now, we’re letting them destroy every park we’ve got. They can do whatever they want because we’re not willing to fight for it. But guess what? We’re fighting for this one. We want this park.”
The city says the new roads are intended to support an increase in the population in the area, improving neighbourhood access and connectivity.
Surrey’s rapid transit manager Paul Lee said the streets have actually been planned since the 80s.
“It was identified in the 1986 OCP (Official Community Plan) as a road to be built and it’s taken all this time,” he said. “More recently, say two or three years ago, it was put into the 10-year plan.”
He noted originally, the road was planned to go through the middle of the park, but the alignment has been changed to “skirt the edge.”
Lee said while critics are saying the road is going in because of LRT, he insisted that’s not the case.
“We’re doing it now because we have money to relocate some of the large water mains currently on 104th in anticipation of the light rail project and we don’t want to go in and disturb the neighbourhood twice,” said Lee. “So there’s synergies there to do it now.”
Lee added that the city plans to improve Hawthorne Park overall.
“Sure, there’s going to be disturbance but there will be better accessibility to the park,” he said. “A new entrance, a new driveway, we are going to relocate the parking so it makes sense, new lighting, just overall improvement.
“And whatever we take out as roadway, we’re going to replace it. The city is actively buying land…. so if we take away four or five acres, we want to purchase four or five acres to replace it. It may not be 100 per cent, but we’re not going to see park land lost because of road construction.”
Asked if homes are being expropriated along the planned 105th Avenue Connector, Lee said “there are properties to be purchased and we’re working on that. So I think this type of information will be shared at the open house.”
Lee encouraged those with concerns to attend a June 7 public consultation meeting to talk to staff.
It is set to run from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7 at Guildford Park Secondary (10707 146th St.).
“It’s a fairly typical open house,” Lee said of the meeting’s format. “We have 25 to 30 storyboards to explain the park design and stuff like that. A lot of staff will be there to answer questions. The whole idea is to get public input.
“Not everything is a done deal,” he added. “If there’s local access being affected, we want to maintain that.”
Pettigrew is hopeful there will be a big turnout at the Wednesday night meeting.
“I think what’s important at that meeting is just to have us have a presence there,” said Pettigrew. “If only 20 or 30 people there it doesn’t show we care, but if we have 1,000 people there it shows we care.”
To view and sign the petition, visit change.org/p/save-hawthorne-park.
Anyone unable to attend the open house get find an update on the city’s plans at surrey.ca/ccp after the meeting.