Steve Pettigrew was vocal, along with other Hawthorne Park opponents, during the City of Surrey’s public meeting at Riverdale elementary on Wednesday evening. (Trevor Beggs)

Opponents vocal as Surrey staff hold public meeting on Hawthorne Park project

City staff set up a gymnasium full of billboards and they listened to the public’s input

Following their decision to approve the Hawthorne Park project, the City of Surrey decided to host a public meeting at Riverdale elementary on Wednesday evening.

While members of the public partook in the meeting to see what the city had to offer, opponents were also out in full force.

One opponent had seen enough of what the city had to offer.

“Once you destroy the earth, there’s no putting it back,” said opponent Sharon Buzik.

What’s going on in there makes me sick to my stomach,” she said. “I had to leave, I couldn’t take much more.”

SEE ALSO: Is there a Plan B for Surrey’s Hawthorne Park?

With about ten staff members on hand, the city answered questions about a couple dozen billboards that were up in the school’s gymnasium.

“We’re here tonight to gather some input and show some information that we already received through our first Hawthorne Park master plan,” said City of Surrey parks manager, Neal Aven.

“Having the public’s input is important to us,” he said. “It’s vital to hear what they have to say, and they’ve given some good input tonight.”

SEE ALSO: Emotions high after Surrey approves controversial road through Hawthorne Park

While the city did their best to answer questions from the public, opponents of the project weren’t happy with the format the city chose to express their plans for the project.

“We wanted to have a town hall type meeting,” said opponent Grant Rice. “The fact that this is the way that the city has decided to go is pretty disappointing.”

Instead of having their voices heard by city councillors, opponents instead bantered with members of the city staff.

Not all of the reaction was negative, however.

Aven mentioned that he received ‘positive input’ on a couple of tweaks to the Hawthorne Park project, including relocation of the parking area along with upgrading and relocating the playground and water park.

There were about 50 people in the gymnasium at one time throughout the evening, with people trickling in and out of the school. Many of the opponents made sure to have their voices heard, and they were visible with ‘Save Hawthorne Park’ badges stuck to their chests.

One of those sporting a badge was vocal opponent Steve Pettigrew. He believes that not everything coming out of city hall regarding Hawthorne Park is completely honest.

“There is a blanket of misinformation,” he said. “It’s a real mess.”

Pettigrew mentions the city’s plans for how many trees they plan on cutting down, versus how many trees they plan to grow. He says that in the city’s reports, the only trees they mention cutting down are ones over 30 centimetres wide.

However, Pettigrew says when it comes to city mentioning new trees that they will plant, they don’t take size into account.

In Pettigrew’s mind, the public meeting put on by the City of Surrey on Wednesday night doesn’t make up for some of the fallacies of the project.

“It doesn’t change anything, I’m very much concerned,” he said. “They’re gonna start knocking down trees in a month, but they haven’t finished all of the preparation.”

“They haven’t worked things out with Hjorth (Road) Elementary. There are also three properties in Hawthorne Park that haven’t been acquired yet.”

“Funding also hasn’t been taken care of. And, they haven’t finished their environmental report.”

“In spite of they, they still want to start building this road in the second week of January.”

It has been a long, hard fight for Pettigrew and many others, and their frustration was evident tonight.

“We have a lot of people involved of this,” said Pettigrew. “In spite of all of that, it doesn’t matter. What’s going on tonight doesn’t change anything.”

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