COLUMN: Residents preserve beauty

Payments into Surrey's Green City fund little more than ‘hush money’

Hard work by area residents seems to be convincing the City of Surrey to put some extra effort into saving mature trees near 24 Avenue and 164 Street in Grandview Heights.

The residents’ efforts are also pushing the city to consider preserving a former horse property on 168 Street as a park, and to also save trees lining 168 Street from north of 24 Avenue to farmland at 32 Avenue, along a steep hill.

The residents deserve a great deal of credit and applause from other Surrey citizens, as they are looking toward the future. That’s something that doesn’t seem to happen at city hall on numerous occasions, as developers push staff and council to squeeze the highest density possible out of properties, no matter how it changes the character of the area.

The value of thinking long-term can be witnessed when driving along Crescent Road, from the Elgin Hall at 142 Street right to Crescent Beach. Almost 40 years ago, there was a push to preserve the character of the road, lined with overhanging mature trees and lush greenery. It gained enough traction that it was endorsed by Surrey council.

The effect today is stunning. It is a beautiful drive and preserves the rural feel of the area, despite fairly intensive development in some areas along that corridor.

The same effect  can be seen along Fraser Highway through the Green Timbers, from 140 to 148 Streets. The mature forest along the road, first planted in 1930 as one of the first planned reforestation efforts in B.C., is now part of the Green Timbers community forest.

It brings back the sense of when Surrey was heavily treed and lightly settled. That’s why the road should never be four-laned through the forest. The pressure to do so will undoubtedly arise in the future, and be labelled “progress.”

The drive north on 168 Street from 24 Avenue to 32 Avenue is another scenic corridor worth preserving. The area is developing rapidly, and the city is building a major recreation centre at 24 Avenue and 168 Street, but that is no reason there can’t be a park to preserve some of the forest, and why the transportation planners can’t find a creative way to improve the road without sacrificing the forested canopy.

The fight to preserve seven mature trees on 164 Street, and trees on another property on 164 Street which is up for development, is also a worthy one. While keeping a few trees on developed property is not quite the same as preserving a corridor, it is important that Grandview Heights (which takes in a great deal of the area once known as Sunnyside), and other areas such as Sullivan, Clayton and Port Kells, do not lose all their mature trees.

The area has developed to a much greater extent than most people would have thought possible 20 years ago. There is obviously a large demand for homes, stores, restaurants, swimming pools and other services, but the past does not need to be obliterated or forgotten in Surrey’s relentless push to add more and more residents.

Tree preservation has been a big issue in Surrey for years, and while council has made some strides towards preserving trees on individual homeowners’ properties, it has fallen short on land up for redevelopment.

One does not have to travel far in any part of Surrey to see this.

It seems that only extended efforts by a committed group of area residents is able to occasionally slow down development plans enough to preserve just a few trees. It’s also time to question the policy of paying into Surrey’s Green City fund.

On one of the 164 Street properties, there are 40 protected trees. Only two will be preserved, and another 45 small trees will be planted. The city claims this is a deficit of 83 trees that should be planted, so in lieu it takes a “contribution” of $24,900 to the green city fund. This is a pittance, given the value of the homes to be built there, and is little more than hush money.

Surrey residents who want to be proud of their city and its unique features in the present, and the distant future, need to pay close attention to just how the city actually deals with trees in development areas.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.