Alex Browne photo Protest organizer Sandy McNamee and Surrey’s Steven Pettigrew (of the Save Hawthorne Park campaign) discuss Tuesday the importance of tree retention.

Protesters resist Johnston Road tree-cutting

Last-ditch effort seeks to halt removal of mature liquidambars by White Rock

A small but vocal group of protesters took to the streets at the intersection of North Bluff Road and Johnston Road twice this week in a last-ditch attempt to save a sidewalk row of mature trees eyed for removal.

White Rock resident Sandy McNamee, and a handful of others – including North Surrey ‘Save Hawthorne Park’ activist Steven Pettigrew – carried placards Tuesday morning, invited passing cars to honk, passed out contact numbers for council members and solicited signatures for a petition.

McNamee returned Thursday and said it is all part of an attempt to stall the impending toppling of liquidambar (sweetgum) trees on the east side of White Rock’s “gateway” – the 1500-block of Johnston Road.

“It’s National Tree Day in Canada on Sept. 27,” said Peninsula environmentalist David Riley. “In White Rock, we like to celebrate it by cutting a few down.”

In a statement issued late Thursday morning, city communications co-ordinator Ashley Gregerson said they “recognize that this is an emotional situation for some residents.”

“Safety is our primary concern. The city is committed to upholding and improving safety in White Rock for our residents and visitors.”

The trees, adjacent to excavations for the 23-storey PARC Retirement Living development, were listed as being in “poor condition” in a recent corporate report.

But McNamee disputed the latest decision on the Johnston Road trees. She said information provided by the city is “misleading” and contradicts arborists’ reports from both 2014 and 2016 which said the trees were not at risk and recommended retaining them, along with others in the uptown area.

“What has changed is the construction there – the new development nearby,” she told Peace Arch News, adding that she has been following the process of planning for redevelopment of the Johnston Road corridor “from day one.”

Riley said the trees are likely seen as an obstruction for the builders of the PARC development.

“It would probably be a lot easier for the builder to pour concrete from this side of the property (from Johnston Road) than from the other side (George Street),” he said.

Gregerson’s statement said the developer was anticipated to apply to remove two trees from the centre median and one from the sidewalk, “to allow safe temporary access to the west side of the PARC construction site and mitigate traffic disruptions.”

The work – expected to include removal of the centre median and some curbs – is in keeping with council’s approved concept design for Johnston Road, it adds.

“It is a standard practice for the city to process these applications and work with developers to find the best solution.”

Riley questioned the logic.

“But this could be a one-off development – 2008 could happen all over again. And you don’t create a new vision for a whole street just because one new house is built. If this building is replicated (in this block), can we not look into whether the trees could fit into it? We’ve had a lot of public process on this, but residents never get to hear how that material has been digested. I think that’s why people are loath to provide input.”

McNamee said the decision to cut the trees runs counter to previously solicited public opinion.

“A petition with 1,107 signatures urging the mayor and council to preserve mature trees on Johnston Road has been ignored,” she added.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Pettigrew, who said he and other ‘Save Hawthorne Park’ supporters had joined McNamee’s protest “to show our solidarity on environmental causes.”

(The residents campaigning against Surrey’s plan to build a road through Hawthorne Park have been given a deadline of Sept. 22 to collect 30,372 signatures in opposition, or the project will go ahead.)

Pettigrew said common environmental concerns transcend geographic boundaries.

“It’s not ‘my people,’ it’s not ‘your people’ – it’s everybody working together,” he said.

“Whether it’s Surrey city or White Rock city, they (civic governments) are not listening to people. It’s ridiculous what they have us go through.”

UBC urban forestry professor Cecil Konijnendijk, who has offered support to McNamee’s protest, told PAN by email that “it takes a long time before newly planted trees can replace the benefits provided by large, mature trees. All efforts possible should be made to retain and protect them, also during development.”

Gregerson described this week’s situation as “ongoing.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Surrey now has second urgent and primary care centre in Newton, premier says

Premier John Horgan noted that some 90,000 people in Surrey don’t have a family doctor

Man convicted by Surrey judge in hatchet attack near SkyTrain station loses appeal bid

Andrew Eugene Agopsowicz was convicted of assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm and possession of a weapon dangerous to public peace

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

Safe business practices, rent relief dual focus of Chamber’s next virtual town hall

COVID-19-focused conversation to take place Friday, May 29

Funding announced for pair of North Delta salmon conservation projects

Grants for Cougar Creek-related works by Burns Bog Conservation Society, Cougar Creek Streamkeepers

VIDEO: Bear catches ‘rascally rabbit’ for breakfast near Whistler bus stop

The brief encounter of the bear hunting its meal has gone viral

United Way allocating $6.6M in federal funding to help with food security, youth mental health

Applications from Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland charities being accepted for the emergency funding

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Missing since 2016, Marie Stuart’s remains found in Abbotsford

Pregnant Abbotsford woman was last seen in December 2016

Soggy dog plucked from Vedder River by Chilliwack Search and Rescue

A 10 month old puppy bit off far more than she could chew throwing herself into the rushing river

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

B.C. drive-in theatre shuts down to await appeal of car limits, concession rules

Business owner Jay Daulat voluntarily closed down the theatre awaiting a health ministry decision

Most Read

l -->