Residents irked by cherry tree removal

Neighbours are mourning the loss of Clayton Park's crowning glory.

Freshly felled mature cherry trees piled near their stumps last week in Clayton Park.

Freshly felled mature cherry trees piled near their stumps last week in Clayton Park.

Clayton residents are surprised and saddened by the removal of a stand of 10 mature flowering cherry trees from Clayton Park.

The City of Surrey’s decision to remove the trees, which surrounded the park’s bowling green facility, was reached in consultation with the Surrey Lawn Bowling Club, which had actively lobbied for the removal, citing maintenance and safety concerns.

But the park’s neighbours found out when they heard the sounds of chainsaws early last week and went over to investigate only to discover a tree removal crew was on the scene.

“None of us knew about it,” resident Ina Vandeburgt said.

After speaking to the workers on site, she contacted representatives from the Lawn Bowling Club and Surrey’s Parks, Recreation and Culture department, where she learned the truth – the plan is to remove the trees and replace them with something less likely to interfere with the bowling green or the walkways.

“I said, ‘Well, surely we can save some of them,’” Vandeburgt said, recalling her conversation with a city official.

“They are the pride and joy of this neighbourhood,” she added. “When you drive in there, it is so picturesque. Surely you can save something; all these years they’ve been there.”

She lamented that nothing more could be done to preserve at least some of the trees.

Another resident who contacted The Reporter was similarly distraught at learning of the cherry trees’ destruction, and said it was a shock to not have any advance warning.

An explanation, she said, wouldn’t change what was happening to what many considered the park’s crowning glory, but would have made the news of the trees’ removal easier to bear.

It turns out the Surrey Lawn Bowling Club has spent a lot of time and money on maintenance issues created by the cherry trees, president Bonnie Wright said.

“They’ve caused a lot of damage to the walkways,” she said. “We’ve had them resurfaced several times.”

Last week she heard from several people who were wondering why the trees were being cut down.

“People love them, and quite a few people phoned me and said, ‘What happened?’”

Sometimes, the city posts notices in a park when trees are to be removed.

That didn’t happen in this case, said Surrey’s manager of parks, Owen Croy, who acknowledged the city could have done a better job of informing neighbours of Clayton Park.

In future, he said, “We will aim to do a better job of letting the public know.”

Surrey Lawn Bowling Club opening dayIt’s not known exactly how old the cherry trees in Clayton Park were, but it’s thought they were planted around the time the Surrey Lawn Bowling Club’s bowling green and clubhouse were constructed in 1969.

Over the years, the ornamental, flowering trees grew as high as 12 metres, and boasted wide, shady branches, which was part of the problem.

The double pink blossoms of the Kwanzan cherry are a prized sign of spring. They flower for about two weeks each April – unfortunately coinciding with the start of the lawn bowling season at Surrey’s only bowling green.

In recent years, the shade created by the mature cherry trees created problems for the Surrey Lawn Bowling Club, which is home to one of the last remaining grass greens around. Most lawn bowling greens have been replaced with artificial turf.

Croy said bent grass, the variety of grass used on the bowling green, likes lots of sunshine and is prone to disease if it doesn’t get enough aeration. The long, leafy limbs of the Kwanzan cherry trees were a poor fit.

In the autumn, falling leaves made for daily raking and blowing – a burden for the club, which is responsible for maintenance.

“It’s mostly volunteers that care for the green on a daily basis,” Croy said.

The shallow roots of the Kwanzan cherry trees also played havoc with the grass bowling surface and the club’s paved walkways, creating a safety hazard for club members.

“It’s a hazard for anyone in the public who has mobility problems,” Croy said.

Additionally, the trees are prone to opportunistic diseases and parasites.

Thousands of Kwanzan cherry trees were planted across Surrey in the past 30 years, but many have since been removed and replaced.

Subject to funding, long term plans call for the replacement of the grass surface with artificial turf at the bowling green at Clayton Park, which would create a year-round facility but would also increase the size of the bowling green – another factor that will be considered in choosing replacement species and where they will be planted, Croy said.

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