While the city prepares for an open house to discuss the future of Hawthorne Rotary Park and the 105 Avenue Connector Project tonight (Dec. 6), opponents aren’t slowing down.
The Save Hawthorne Park group says city staff have recently revealed to them a “Plan B” which would see the 104th Avenue water main relocated to 103rd Avenue: That option would eliminate the planned road to be built through Hawthorne Park, they say.
City hall has yet to confirm this information.
The group is “demanding answers” from city hall, given this development, after the controversial project was approved on Nov. 6.
“Despite many unresolved economic, social and environmental issues the City has put out a bid for work to begin in the park in January 2018,” opponents state in a release.
“The Save Hawthorne Park group has asked that City of Surrey staff provide a town hall style Q & A session at this open house. Over 11,000 Surrey citizens have expressed their opposition to the City’s plans. They have never had the opportunity to voice their concerns on the future of Hawthorne Rotary Park and the 105 Avenue Connector Project. We have offered to help facilitate the meeting to ensure a fair and balanced process.”
The group calls calls for the matter to go to referendum.
Opponents have also released a report that mimics a formal corporate report, dubbed “Citizens’ Report.”
The report urges city council to rescind the final reading of the removal of the park bylaw, and to restore Hawthorne Park’s protected status.
It also urges council to authorize staff to implement “Plan B.”
Their report notes several ecological issues with the current plan, and also charges the impacts to Hjorth Road Elementary’s field would cost the city as much as $45 million, when factoring in land acquisition and construction of a new school.
The city says it would be speculation to talk about costs at this point, because it’s unclear what the final project will be as discussion continues with the school district.
Though the city insists it will leave the school left whole, or better off.
Meantime, the city’s information meeting will take place at Riverdale Elementary on Dec. 6 starting at 5:30 p.m.
Documents to be shared at the meeting explain the city’s justification for the connector road, which is to move utilities off 104 Avenue in preparation for light rail, that it’s been in the city’s Official Community Plan since 1986, and to create an east-west connection from Whalley Boulevard to 150 Street to ease traffic and reduce congestion.
But, documents say the plan has been “30 years in the planning, well before and independent of proposed Light Rail Transit.”
“Our goals are really just to have the public have an opportunity to review our project history, the context of the project and what the goals of the project are, to see how their input over the last number of months has shaped project design because it has evolved since our initial plans,” said Rosemary Silva, Surrey’s engineering communications manager, of the information meeting Wednesday night.
Silva pointed to many changes made to the 105 Avenue Connector Project as a “direct result” of public input, including a narrower road corridor through the park with only one travel lane in each direction; removing on-street parking for the planned road; removing the 142nd Street connection; more biodiversity enhancements such as a new wetland habitat and wildlife crossings; a new walking trail connected to the Quibble Creek Greenway; and relocating the park’s parking lot to 144th Street for better visibility and access.
The city says it will also talk at the meeting about plans for replacing trees, adding a new salmon rearing habitat, building a new washroom building, new bike and walking trails, and sheltered picnic areas.
“We will have conceptual drawings of initial (park) improvements,” said Silva. “That $3 million (park improvement) package was approved along with the roadworks on Nov. 6. We want to give the public a sense of our phased implementation.”
Another $3 million will be spent on Hawthorne Park’s master plan, totalling $6 million of improvements to the park in all, said Silva.
So far, Silva said the city has heard a destination-scale playground with amenities for all ages is desired, and a parkour area for youth is being considered.
Surrey’s urban forestry manager Neal Aven explained the city has done initial consultation on what park improvements residents what to see over the longer term, but they want to hear more.
“It’s important to highlight the additional work that’s being done to enhance riparian areas, improve connections to one of our biodiversity conservation corridors in the park, and a dog off-leash area has been talked about over the years,” said Aven. “We hope to hear back more from people.”
Transportation manager Phillip Bellefontaine said while it has been suggested the park will close down for a year while works go on, “it’s important to stress that’s not the case.”
At the information meeting, the city will also reveal that a recent independent consultant study indicated the bog no longer contains many of the species and ecosystem that function as a bog.
“As a result, the new wetland habitat will enhance biodiversity not currently occurring,” a city document states. “In addition to the net 200 trees in the expanded park area, 500 replacement trees will be planted within the road corridor boulevards, meaning a total 700 trees will be added throughout the project area.”
The City of Surrey has also promised a one-acre net increase to the park’s size, through acquisition of adjacent lands.
The city says it will take a phased implementation approach with the connector project overall, with work beginning in January, 2018 through to the end of 2020.
Roadwork from 140th to 144th Streets will begin in January and some tree clearing is also planned that month to avoid the bird nesting season, the city told the Now-Leader.
In February, the city plans to start construction of a new trail in the park that would connect to Quibble Creek greenway, then embark on the wetland habitats, a new Hawthorne Park parking lot, as well as construction on Whalley Boulevard to 140th Street.
The existing spray park and playground will remain open through the 2018 high use months.
But a new playground is set to be built and completed in 2018.
In the 2018 off-season, a replacement water park will be built, with a targeted opening of the summer of 2019.
Earlier this week, Surrey Councillor Mike Starchuk penned a letter to the editor, saying city hall made an “informed decision” about Hawthorne Park.
“Sometimes, making the right decisions to move the City forward in the right direction means being ready to make not the popular decisions but the informed ones,” he wrote.
Starchuk said council’s approval was based on “fulfilling a long identified need, 30 years in the planning, to deliver better access, circulation, connectivity and multi-modal corridors for a growing community, not just now but into the future.”
He added: “It strikes the balance of addressing the area’s growing transportation demands, plans for sustainable development in City Centre and along 104th Avenue, and the community’s desire for active and natural areas for an improved community park…. I take issue with those that say they haven’t had a voice in the process.”