South Surrey's Gratitude Garden – on 156 Street just north of King George Boulevard – is to be officially designated as parkland.

South Surrey's Gratitude Garden – on 156 Street just north of King George Boulevard – is to be officially designated as parkland.

South Surrey’s ‘Gratitude Garden’ here to stay

South Surrey parkland decision "a victory truly won by the citizens"

Nearly 10 years after it took root, an unofficial South Surrey park is to be made official.

Following a corporate report Monday (Feb. 6), council voted unanimously to direct staff to take whatever steps are necessary to convert the “Gratitude Garden” – located on 156 Street immediately north of King George Boulevard – to parkland.

Garden creator Adrian Bilodeau, who was on-hand for the news, described it as “a victory truly won by the citizens.”

“I do not think as one man I would of been victorious,” Bilodeau said by email late Tuesday.

“I am so grateful.”

Community support for the garden, which started as a small tribute to Bilodeau’s father, was cited as a key factor in staff’s recommendation to preserve it.

At city hall Monday, Coun. Judy Villeneuve described the outcome as “just such a fine story of people rallying around a project that they put their hearts into.”

Doubt was cast on the future of the garden in early December, after Bilodeau received an email from the city’s realty-services division advising that the city intended to sell the lot sometime early this year.

The news caught Bilodeau by surprise, and he appealed to anyone who saw value in the garden to add their voice to his to help save it. That appeal led local resident Laura McLeod to launch an online petition, an effort that logged support from 312 people.

Soon after, the city’s realty-division manager reached out, and a meeting with Bilodeau took place in early January.

Tuesday, McLeod said she is “thrilled that we may have been able to save this spot.”

According to the corporate report, the land was part of a one-acre parcel at 2248 King George Blvd. that was acquired by the city in 2007 to facilitate realignment of the intersection at 156 Street. Once that “essential public safety project” was complete, a 0.46-acre dedicated road allowance remained.

Bilodeau, who used to live in a home immediately adjacent to the parcel, started a small tribute on the lot’s northwest corner in 2008, shortly after his dad, Adrian Sr., passed away. Over the years, it grew to stretch along the western border, then into the lot itself.

Its significance to the community was recognized in 2012, when former mayor Dianne Watts sent a letter to Bilodeau thanking him for the time and effort he had invested in the garden.

“This sets a prime example for Surrey residents of what it means to give back to the community,” Watts wrote.

The effort was further acknowledged in May 2015, when council approved a Community Enhancement Partnership Grant for the garden.

A corporate report at that time notes consideration to sell the surplus property would be shelved “until further development in the area,” after staff were “made aware of the importance of this site to the community.”

The latest corporate report notes city realty staff embarked on assessing whether the land would be a candidate for sale following inquiries “from several potential buyers.”

In recommending abandoning those efforts, parks general manager Laurie Cavan cited the benefits of residents helping “identify and champion possible parkland.”

“Advocacy and engagement are key indicators of a healthy community, and it is important for the city to support engaged neighbourhoods,” Cavan states in the report.

Bilodeau said he is grateful “to everyone out there who took the time and effort to help in this shared victory.”

“Now I can go back into planning mode for this year’s additions.”