Letter: Please don’t chop down Surrey’s Green Timbers

Surrey City Council should hold a referendum on development proposal that will raze 12 acres of Green Timbers Urban Forest

To the editor:

Re: the development next to Green Timbers Urban Forest – my concerns;

1) The promise was made to protect the forest

2) Needed services for Surrey community

I am shocked and disappointed in our elected officials and their approval given on May 9 on the controversial development proposal requiring the clear-cut of 12 acres of the original replanted forest on the old BC Forestry tree nursery grounds of the Green Timbers Urban Forest (GTUF). Their decision shows little respect for this global treasure. Opposition was presented by Green Timbers Heritage Society (GTHS) president Don Schuetze, director Jim Foulkes, environmentalist Deb Jack, and GTHS Bill Potma, stating that development to close proximity to the GTUF would have detrimental effects to this fragile ecosystem. After little discussion city council approved the proposal anyway. Many concerned Surrey citizens were present and a wave of vocal dismay was heard.

GTUF was the first re-forestation project completed in BC by the Ministry of Forests. In 1930 Premier Tolmie announced that Surrey was chosen for the location of an experimental forest and a promise was made to “care for the forest in perpetuity.” One square mile of prime earth with ideal conditions were set aside by the government of BC for replanting a new forest after clear cut logging had taken place over the entire region.

After a grueling task of preparing the earth and clearing areas for planting, numerous species and varieties of tender young saplings were finally planted, and given their new home, the GTUF.

The Minister of Forests declared the experiment was a success! This first example of reforestation was the reason to adapt this practice on all clear-cuts across the entire province. A mandatory law was made for all land owners practicing clear-cut logging to replant native species of trees, which remains in effect today.

The ancient rainforest is gone forever. GTUF is the oldest second growth forest in BC, and GTUF is a unique global treasure and should be treated with respect. Premier Tolmie promised the citizens that GTUF would be protected in perpetuity, and that means forever. “Protect” means to do whatever it takes, to keep it in its natural state so future generations can visit, and experience the paradise it is.

One square mile is a very limited space to support such an ecosystem. The outer edge of the forest is vulnerable to strong winds which blow down some of the trees. This is nature’s way to create a “guard”. The more openly exposed the perimeter, the more damage it will receive during wind storms. Therefore, the development that was recently approved by Surrey council requiring about 12 acres of the replanted area is irresponsible. By ignoring the advice of the experts that presented their opposition, trying to protect the forest for future generations.

The City of Surrey is a democratic government whose job as elected officials is to represent the citizens. It seems to me that mayor and council are behaving as though they own the land. I suggest there be a referendum giving the citizens a chance to vote on this very important decision.

I understand the need for the proposed services for the community: a homeless shelter, care facility, offices, a restaurant, a parking lot, and a bioenergy facility (how ironic). But why choose the forest location next to a sensitive ecosystem? I suggest the city choose to build these needed services elsewhere. Perhaps one or two square blocks of neglected “teardown” houses in areas well known. Surely the City of Surrey can do this without destroying more of our valuable forest.

The GTHS was formed when the city in 1986 proposed to destroy that forest to build a sports stadium. The people protested and demanded a referendum, which was granted. The result of that vote was a big, “No!” for destroying the forest and “No!” to the stadium. As a result, the GTHS took immediate action and commenced organizing volunteer residents planting trees, clearing bush, and building trails. They also got “Fish and Game” involved to create the lake, stocked it with fish, and created a balanced, healthy environment for wildlife and humans. Surrey Council then made a promise to the people to “leave the forest untouched, and honour the original promise made by the late Premier Tolmie.”

The GTUF continues to be a popular area for nature enthusiasts, hikers, bird watchers, fishermen, and future foresters. It’s important that our children and future generations experience the beauty and serenity this paradise provides. I don’t see how that can continue with all those unrelated facilities next door.

My father, John Tompson, an environmental pioneer, was one of those young men who worked on the reforestation project in the 1930’s clearing the ground and planting trees, and was present when Premier Tolmie made the promise to the people to preserve the forest forever. John was one of the founding members of Green Timbers Heritage Society and his passion for preserving nature for future generations continues within me.

Let’s all sign the petition at savegreentimbers.ca to show support to preserve this special place that is not a city park, but a forest reserve.

Cheryl Rose Lauzon (Tompson)

Daughter of the late John Tompson

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