Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society, at the site of the Surrey forest’s inaugural plantation in 1930. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society, at the site of the Surrey forest’s inaugural plantation in 1930. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

SURREY NOW & THEN: Green Timbers’ inaugural plantation began ‘cultural shift’ in B.C.

A weekly look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people

B.C.’s reforestation efforts began 91 years ago in Surrey with the “inaugural plantation” of Green Timbers Urban Forest.

Not surprisingly, not all of those 120 trees have survived a century of radical change in the area.

Back in 1928, Surrey-area citizens protested the proposed logging of the area, but concerns were ignored and the entire 2,000-acre forest was chopped down.

“This was the last virgin forest that remained along the Pacific Highway that stretched from San Diego, California to Surrey, British Columbia,” notes a post on

Chastised, the provincial government of the time looked to make amends by setting aside 640 acres along the highway (now Fraser Highway) to be replanted as B.C.’s first reforestation project.

And so, in 1930, the death of the last old-growth trees in the area led to an awakening of sorts, with a new forest given life in the heart of the municipality.

On March 15 that year, on land cleared by locals Harry Baker and John Tompson, government and business officials gathered to plant 120 Douglas fir, Sikta spruce, Western red cedar and Monterey pine seedlings, each numbered and assigned a name.

Heritage signs and storyboards now mark the plantation site, a short walk from Surrey Nature Centre, 14225 Green Timbers Way.

“The event really started a cultural shift in the province, because they’d been cutting down all these trees and they thought, ‘Well, there won’t be an end to them all, there are so many trees,’” said Don Schuetze, president of Green Timbers Heritage Society. “Well, we know that’s not the case. So they started planting trees, and it started right here.”

• RELATED STORY: City of Surrey seeks residents’ input on urban tree strategy.

The heritage society was established in 1987, in a fight to save the forest from urban development. A sports stadium was proposed on land where the man-made lake was later created. Referendums were passed, preserving Green Timbers Urban Forest.

Schuetze, son of the society’s first president, Herman Schuetze, remembers visiting the forest as a kid.

“We used to live in the area and did school trips here, and one of the exercises was, we had to stand over there and calculate how tall these trees were, through trigonometry or whatever,” Schuetze recalled. “And this here, a straight line of trees that you can still see, is part of the original hedge that separated the nursery from what was planted here. You can follow this line of trees across the road and behind the RCMP building, the same hedge and the ditch here.”


The story of the inaugural plantation is told on One photo shows MLA John W. Berry planting tree #2, along with Colonel Nelson Spencer, young Tom Berry, MLA Mike Manson, Peter Z. Caverhill (chief engineer) and Ed Walmsley (land agent).

The photo caption says: “The inaugural plantation was left practically untended for 58 years when, in 1988, Herman Scheutze and Rick Govier, two co-founders of Green Timbers Heritage Society with the help of Jim Foulkes, a surveyor and member of the Surrey Heritage Society, succeeded in locating the overgrown inaugural stand and its surviving trees.”

Schuetze remembers his father constantly writing letters, struggling with a manual typewriter. “He was missing a finger from a wood mill accident which probably didn’t help either,” the current society president said.

In 1990, a “commemorative plantation” was done at Green Timbers to mark the 60th anniversary of the inaugural plantation. “Nearby is the two-billionth forestry tree seedling planted in the province in 1989, and 20 more seedlings were planted to commemorate the Millennium in 2000,” says a post on

Not all of the trees planted in 1930 have survived, Schuetze noted.

“One of the trees had to be cut down last spring,” he said, “because it posed a danger to people walking through here, so not all of them are in great shape and are leaning a bit, you know.”

This week, as part of the city’s annual Environmental Extravaganza, Green Timbers Heritage Society is hosting a “Selfie Scavenger Hunt” to encourage exploration of the forest.

“Find at least five of the locations, featured wildlife and plants on the list below in Surrey’s Green Timber’s Urban Forest and Park,” says a post on “Post a selfie of each item in the list to social media with the hashtag #GTUF2021 to be entered into a draw for great prizes. Winners will be messaged via Instagram after June 8, 2021.” The items include beaver lodge, glacial erratic, ferns, birds, flowers, tree cones, insects and more.

“There’s so much history here aside from the inaugural plantation, including an arboretum and the 60th-anniversary planting,” Schuetze said. “I always enjoy visiting here.

“Now there’s this emphasis on trees as a form of livability and there’s the phrase ‘forest bathing,’ which is about being in the forest and soaking in the air, how it does something to you – you feel better after going for a walk in the woods, you just do. Humans are just wired that way, that we need green things around us, especially trees.”

Surrey Now & Then is a look back at Surrey-area landmark sites, events and people. Email story ideas and tips to We thank Surrey Archives for assistance with this series.

CLICK HERE to read more SURREY NOW & THEN stories.

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter


Just Posted

Outdoor vendors at the Cloverdale Flea Market are seen in this bird’s eye view image from the flea market’s Facebook page.
Cloverdale Flea Market to reopen

Market to open June 20 after being closed since Nov. 2020

Rahim Manji owns and operates the Hollywood 3 Cinemas in Newton, along with the Caprice in South Surrey, a theatre in Duncan and another in Pitt Meadows. “I think right now it feels different than last June, it just does,” Manji said. “I’m a lot more optimistic, with more people calling, more people out and getting vaccinated, so I think the comfort level is a lot better.” (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey movie theatre operators reopen and rejoice, even with 50-max capacity

‘We have been one of the hardest-hit industries’

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police searching for Surrey woman missing at Centennial Beach

Wenyan Lan, 54, reported missing when she didn’t come home from a crabbing/clam digging trip June 14

Popular event/party band March Hare will appear in an online streamed performance Friday (June 18) featuring their salute to music of the `60s and `70s as part of BEC Entertainment’s Grand Summer Virtual Concert series. (Contributed photo)
White Rock-based BEC Entertainment continues Friday-night virtual concerts

March Hare and California Surf Incorporated featured

Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service launches public consultation campaign

This is to help the SPS form its first strategic plan

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers found that 56% of foundations and eye products contain high levels of fluorine

Most Read