When Grandview Heights tree advocate-activist Sybil Rowe chatted with Grade 5 students of Pacific Heights Elementary last month, they were meeting on common ground – in more ways than one.
The senior – who gave students her self-designed Guardians of the Forest badges, featuring an image of an owl – lives just across the street from the school.
And Division 4 teacher Mary Holmes said Rowe, 78, has been cited to the students as a positive “example of the role of citizen involvement” for her recent work in having a former horse farm on 168 Avenue confirmed as a passive park by Surrey’s Parks, Recreation and Sport Tourism Committee, and red-flagging majestic evergreens along 168 for special attention by the engineering department in future development plans for the area.
But the children have their own project to save trees in the neighborhood – in particular forest land immediately east of the school between 24 and 26 Avenues – which they have been working on with the assistance of student teacher Angela Moino.
They’re writing to Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts with a petition to save the corridor – part of it a previously-logged but regrown area earmarked for a road allowance, but the rest a city-owned two acres of virtually pristine forest.
The students ask that council reconsiders “planning and zoning of this valuable space.”
“This green space is part of a corridor for creatures to travel to and from the Nicomekl River and Semiahmoo Bay,” the students’ petition states. “It is also a wonderful place to learn about our environment and a place just to be.”
There are sufficient roads in the area for residents, students say, while the forest is “home to many creatures, flora and fauna.”
“We’ve seen deer right by the school,” Holmes said, as the students walked along the eastern perimeter of the school grounds at 17148 26 Ave.
“The children have often watched squirrels playing from the windows of our classroom.”
Proudly displayed on a wall in the school lobby are images Holmes’ class created after nature walks in the forest – many based on rubbings of tree bark, leaves and sticks – and also descriptions in the students own words of how being in the forest makes them feel.
Some of these are summarized in the students’ letter to Watts, in which they say “when we were in the forest, we felt peaceful, healthy, calm, comfortable and safe.”
The students said they have been studying the forest for two months. They plan to offer the petition to all students in the school and distribute Rowe’s badges to those who want to participate.
“It’s wonderful that the children are thinking like this at their age,” Rowe said. “This is their future.”