I had prepared myself for the development. I did not want this incursion into the serene ambience that drew me here in my retirement, but prepared myself to make best of it. To watch the beautiful treed properties, lovingly tended over the years, being excavated was painful.
However, I cannot describe the shock I felt, standing at the corner of 24 Avenue and 168 Street, looking out over two clearcut acres completely stripped of trees. It was a horrible, inexcusable act. I was appalled. This was a city project – not something “dreadful developers” had done.
Realizing a large pool was slated for this spot, I thought of the South Surrey Indoor Pool and visualized the mature western cedars just outside the front door. I could not understand the lack of sensitivity shown in the building of our Grandview Heights Aquatics Centre.
My fear is this desecration will continue throughout the remaining acres slated for development on my street. I understand parking lots are needed, but parking lots and trees get along fine together. A row here, an island there, makes the lot beautiful – and people will rush to park under a tree when the heat of summer is upon us.
We hear that trees will be planted later. I appreciate the attractive landscaping seen about town, but I must insist ornamentals do not replace our magnificent Douglas firs and western cedars that give South Surrey its character.
On my refrigerator is a magnet from the city parks department. It has a shade tree bearing the inscription: “Trees make Surrey cool.” How I wish they would distribute some to our mayor and council.
Am I the lone voice of an eccentric? I don’t think so. I believe that people do love trees but don’t realize it until it is too late. One day, they look around and say, “It used to be so beautiful here, whatever happened?”
I am fighting for the preservation of some vestige of the neighbourhood that drew us here in the beginning. It is a lonely fight. I am met with the weary resignation that follows years of futile meetings, struggling through an empty process in which public input ends up in the trash.
One neighbour is exhausted after battling for two years over Area 4, that exquisite, environmentally sensitive area we associate with Redwood Park. The citizens advisory there is a cynical process indeed. Only two members are true residents, all others being developers who, having purchased properties in the area, are mysteriously elected to represent the wishes of the neighbourhood. The city is aware of this situation and permits it.
Shame! This makes a mockery of our democracy.
I have a vision, one encompassing the Canadian tradition of compromise. For starters, the boulevard trees on either side of 168 Street between 24 and 32 avenues must be preserved and declared heritage trees.
Continue to develop between 24 and 26 avenues and 168 and 172 street, but change the way you do it. Hold the heritage trees that make Grandview Heights the paradise it is in the highest regard. Save them wherever possible.
Remember, this is our neighbourhood. The city is not entitled to sweep through with chainsaws and excavators, destroying the land before our very eyes. We will not stand for it. They need to consult us, in a truly honest and meaningful way, before continuing with this project.
Sybil Rowe, Surrey