Grandview Heights senior Sybil Rowe has scored a victory in her campaign to protect stands of old-growth trees in her neighbourhood.
Rowe said she is delighted by a report, endorsed by Surrey’s parks, recreation and sport tourism committee, which recommends that nine acres of city land in the 2700-block on the east side of 168 Street be retained as “passive” park land.
The report – submitted May 21 by parks planning, research and design manager Ted Uhrich – notes the Grandview Heights Community Park to the south is planned to be developed with playing fields and other “active park infrastructure.” But he suggested the former horse-farm property, championed by Rowe, could be “kept in a somewhat more natural state and be used for a mixture of passive activities such a picnicking and playgrounds.
“Given the mature trees on the site, and the meadow-like areas contained within the property, the park would be an ideal site for activities that are difficult to achieve on a site with active playing fields.”
A site survey, arbourist report and environmental survey have been commissioned for the space with an eye to formally planning the park as part of the Grandview Heights 5 NCP.
Committee chair Coun. Linda Hepner told Peace Arch News the report was “unanimously” endorsed and has been passed on for receipt by council, with no further vote required.
Hepner said it would remain to be seen exactly how the park would be planned, but said it would not be a case of clear cutting the land and replacing the forest with landscaping and re-planted trees.
“Our full intention would be to protect the stand of trees,” she said. “I hope this is good news. This is an area that is developing quickly, but we want to make sure it’s an environment people can enjoy. They want it and we want it.”
The news was welcomed by Rowe, 78.
“I’m just thrilled,” she said. “The best part of the whole thing is that the park described is very much the same language I used in my presentation to council – it almost repeated my letter.”
Rowe collected 730 resident signatures late last year in her quest to have the farm be awarded park status.
She acknowledged she had previously felt “shunted around” between city council and various committees in attempts to draw attention to the issue earlier this year.
“The only weapon I had was that I wasn’t going to go away,” she said. “But I’ve always said I don’t care about the procedures, I care about the outcome – and the outcome is right. I say thank you, thank you, thank you.”
One of Rowe’s issues – achieving heritage designation for the “majestic evergreens framing either side of 168 street from 24 Avenue to 32 Avenue – could not be addressed as she asked.
Hepner said council could not commit to such designation now, as it would depend on engineering decisions about alignment of a widened 168 Street that can’t be made until future development plans become clearer.
Uhrich’s report notes that while the road widening is not in the current 10-year plan, Surrey’s engineering department will commission a study on the impacts of road widening and the possibility of adjusting the boulevard to enhance tree protection on 168 Street.
Rowe said she has already written to the engineering department to suggest a compromise on full heritage designation, provided every effort is made to save the trees.
“My problem has never been with the engineering department – I trust them implicitly.”