The Grove in Newton is beginning to look festive, with stockings on many of the trees as well as hand-made Christmas ornaments and other décor.
Even on a dark December night the treed area next to the Newton Recreation Centre is bright due to the new strands of lights recently installed by the City of Surrey. David Dalley and Katheren Szabo, two of the Friends of the Grove co-founders, decorated the trees Dec. 1 to enhance the community feel and holiday spirit in the area.
Since the murder of hockey mom Julie Paskall nearly one year ago, the community-based Friends of the Grove, with support from the city, have banded together to change the area and work towards making it a safer space.
On Dec. 29, 2013, 53-year-old Paskall was waiting to pick up her 14-year-old son who was volunteering as a referee at a tournament near the Newton Ice Rink at 7120 136B St.
The longtime time-keeper with Surrey Minor Hockey was waiting in the parking lot when someone clubbed her in the head and beat her with a blunt object. She died on Dec. 31, 2013.
“The City of Surrey recognizes that when positive people abandon spaces, negative things move in,” Dalley said. “If you can move positive people and things back in you will be able to find a way to connect with people in your community.”
Kartar Singh Meet said he has seen the area when it was at its worst – a dirty, dangerous place. He said it’s better now with the lights, but added improving the neighbourhood is a continuous process.
“You can’t achieve anything overnight,” Meet said. “It takes a little bit of effort by each one of us.”
Dalley said the lights are not going to solve the crime problem, but it is a step in the right direction.
“The major difference is the community engagement – people connecting with people.”
Szabo said she became familiar with users of the path when she set up a 60-day vigil in memory of Paskall after her murder. Szabo said she sat in a chair and had an empty chair for people to sit down in and talk to her as they walked by.
“Every day I came here for three or four hours, brought up Julie and started conversations with people,” she said. “I was trying to create a community face of love, care and concern and make people feel that violence wasn’t necessary in the community here in Newton.”
Friends of the Grove recently won the 2014 Beautiful City Award from the City of Surrey for the work they have done, Szabo said.
Dalley said the public is welcome to visit the Grove any time before their Christmas carolling event Dec. 13 to hang ornaments on the trees.
“Please hang them on the strings,” he said, “or leave them at the base of the tree and we will hang them for you.”