Described by one organizer as a “difficult and emotional” topic, more than 100 people gathered at the Ocean Park Community Hall to learn about the value of trees.
The Ocean Park Beautification Committee invited UBC urban forestry professor Cecil Konijnendijk, City of Surrey trees and landscaping manager Nadia Chan and City of Surrey urban forestry manager Neal Aven to present at the Value of Trees event Aug. 17 for the Ocean Park neighbourhood.
Following the formal presentations, the audience was encouraged to ask questions to the presenters.
“There was a lot of concern in the audience that these trees are all being cut down. People are really upset. There were people crying in the room, people were saying this has to stop. The city needs to do something and put something in place so we can save our areas,” co-organizer Nicole Nelson told Peace Arch News Friday.
Nelson said the line of questioning put the city representatives “in a certain spot,” as the city also has a role to play with development.
“We’re not against development,” Nelson said. “Development is good, but there has to be a middle ground where trees, forest and nature is preserved and development happens.
“Right now it’s swinging too much on the development side and we’re seeing the concrete jungles pop up.”
Surrey Coun. Mike Starchuk, Township of Langley Coun. Petrina Arnason and White Rock Coun. Helen Fathers attended the event.
Nelson said both Fathers and Arnason approach her after the event.
“Both of them are interested in a followup meeting. Our group is going to be meeting with White Rock and the Township of Langley to talk about what can be done and brainstorm some ideas,” Nelson said, adding that an exact date of the meeting is yet to be formalized.
She said the Ocean Park Beautification Committee doesn’t mind meeting with both cities, as urban forestry concerns extend beyond Surrey borders.
“I think the idea is to come together and think of what we can do. I don’t think this is just a Surrey problem. I think Surrey is being the hardest hit right now because we have land. The land is being plowed and cleared and housing is going up because development is huge,” Nelson said.
Members from the ‘Save Hawthorne Park’ group also attended the event. That group is lobbying the City of Surrey to stop the city’s proposed 105 Avenue Connector project, which includes building a road through the Surrey Park. After delivering a 5,000-name petition to Surrey council last month, opponents have until Sept. 22 to collect 30,372 signatures in opposition of the project in order to stop the civic government from proceeding with it.
Representatives from the group were collecting signatures at the Value of Trees event.
People interested in getting on the beautification committee can email firstname.lastname@example.org