Surrey’s history preserved in its heritage trees
Dear Mayor Hepner:
The Surrey Historical Society advocates the importance of all items of historical significance, including those in the “natural“ category. Our parks and neighbourhoods have long been recognized as among the most beautiful in Metro Vancouver, because of our trees. Surrey was rightfully named, “The City of Parks.” Now it is labeled, “City of Surrey: The future lives here!” Let us continue to acknowledge that large heritage trees are also part of the future.
Most of Surrey was logged and stumps cleared during the late 1800s through the 1940s. Yes, the trees were valuable for the economy, for buildings, fences, poles, firewood. But even farmers who cleared large areas for pasture, grains and gardens, kept or planted trees around their homes, and also for agricultural windbreaks, along riparian areas, and for woodlots where dairy herds bedded. These trees have been growing for many long years and many of them are included in Surrey’s impressive List of Heritage Trees.
These Heritage Trees grow on both public and private properties, but we are distressed to see so many trees of significant size removed from city-owned properties, such as parks, dykes, roadsides, cemeteries, schools. We wonder why the large maples and cedars were felled at Bose Forest Park, trees along 184th Street, the cottonwoods on the dykes, the yew tree and Douglas Fir at Surrey Centre Cemetery, the tall trees along the schoolground across from the Green Timbers Forest on 100th Avenue. And why have healthy trees been cut along sidewalk areas in developments along 156th Street near 104th Ave? It seems trees are felled at most new developments, without any consideration for the attraction, sentiment and value of these trees. Do the developers just consider the resulting fees part of their expenses?
We are always advised that thousands of young trees are planted in Surrey each year, which is commendable, but we also desire to see the old ones remain, standing tall and proud.
The Surrey Historical Society is hopeful that the City will re-address its attention to all older trees, including those of historical significance, and renew their determination to preserve them.
Deforestation in the City of Parks
When I was younger my mother would take me out to Surrey’s Green Timbers Park, with its massive lake filled with fish, wetlands riddled with frogs and grass meadows crawling with insects. Best of all were trees, like statues standing guard protecting the forest, busy with birds of many species flying around in the canopy.
This home to many is now threatened, being shaved for wider roadways and even more housing by the City of Surrey. They are taking away the food and shelter of the creatures that already reside in the 12 acres of forested land scheduled to be taken down for human habitat.
Green Timbers Park was populated with 200 foot-tall trees that spread over 5000 acres until 1929 when it was deforested for logging and replanted. Much of the replanted park was deforested again for local housing so that the park now only occupies a mere 452 acres, some of which is taken up by roads that dissect the forest.
Now another deforestation event is about to happen. The City of Surrey is planning on cutting part of the area to widen the Fraser Highway from 12 to 45 meters, also widening 100 Avenue, in addition to building either a homeless shelter or government offices. Widening the road will further separate Green Timbers into two. This is a deeply devastating event for many animals that do not thrive in fragmented forests.
Deforestation is something that happens all over the world, animals fleeing to city streets and residential areas, turning them from wildlife to pests. Patty Winsa reported in 2012 for the Toronto Star, that Toronto retrieves about 7500 dead animals each year, a majority of them hit by cars.
Having more cars passing through a park could also potentially be dangerous for park users taking a stroll or walking their dogs. Visitors that want to go to other parts of the park will have to cross heavy traffic; roads should lead people to parks, not through parks.
Instead of cutting down the diminishing Green Timbers Forest, the City of Surrey should be considering alternatives. For example, there are vacant houses all over Surrey that could be converted into homeless housing. The empty building on 104 Avenue and 141 Street, has been vacant for over 16 years and would be the perfect place for housing.
Instead of widening the Fraser Highway in the middle of the park it could be widened at other areas in the city that also get congested. Another alternative to widening would be to direct drivers to less busy roads like the South Fraser Perimeter Road, handy if you need to get through Surrey quickly. The City could also put more funding toward transit to make it more accessible to the public, reducing congestion on the roads, an even better solution to Surrey’s traffic problems than cutting down more trees.
Members of the Green Timbers Heritage Society have referred to Green Timbers as the ‘Stanley Park’ of Surrey because of its many naturally grown areas. If the City of Surrey continues at the rate they are cutting down trees, there will be no forest left for me to take my future children, who will not be able to experience what it is like to climb 100-year-old trees and listen to the birds singing to the bees.
It would be tragic to see this park deforested down to nothing.