not always



We’re going through some tough times in Surrey.

We have a relatively new mayor who has an uphill battle trying to get a tired old regime to embrace sustainability.

This week’s Corporate Report to Council is indicative of the culture of denial and resistance that prevents us from moving forward.

The attempt to undermine the good work of members of our community who expose wilful environmental destruction is seriously disturbing.

John Werring is one of the most respected fisheries biologists in this country. And the David Suzuki Foundation produces work of such calibre that only guilty governments take exception to.

Black Press reporter Kevin Diakiw has won multiple awards for environment reporting.

When Mayor Dianne Watts was presented with this story she did not engage in denial. She didn’t even – as she would have been justified in doing – point to the fact that she wasn’t mayor at the time the Stokes Pit tragedy played out.

What she said is, “We can’t be doing this, we have to do better.”

Unless senior staff embrace the same attitude, we will never move ahead.

Surrey’s general manager of engineering, Paul Ham, speaks of the vast amount of work and money that has been spent at Stokes Pit. Absolutely. With little to show for it.

And therein lies the lesson we have learned from Stokes Pit. Nature isn’t always forgiving.

Anyone who has been to Stokes Pit in the past few years has seen firsthand the perpetual failings of remedial actions: the streambanks – of pure sand and gravel – that continue to slide without the 100-year-old tree roots to stabilize them; the new tree plantings that have depressingly low survival rate; the cavalier dispatch of bulldozers and chainsaws at Stokes Pit carried a significant financial and environmental cost.

The last time any of us saw Pierre Rovtar – a year ago this coming Saturday – he stood his daughter up from where she was crouched planting trees. He pointed to all the cleared areas and explained how much time and money it will cost to do a brownfield habitat reclamation project.

Pierre understood – as the head of Surrey engineering appears not to – that there were many superior alternatives to getting Surrey’s development needs met at Stokes.

I would add that a biologist friend, who was with the provincial Ministry of Environment at the time, described Campbell Heights to me in a private phone call as “the poster child for what not to do in developing such an environmentally sensitive area.”

The Werring/Diakiw exposé discusses salmon. But there were all kinds of wildlife that will take years – possibly decades – if they ever, in fact, come back. The sandpipers, the barn owl, blue and green heron. Several colonies of red-legged frogs. The 24 deer – and those were the ones reported – that were driven onto neighbouring roads and killed.

Remember the stories of beavers building lodges in corners of people’s swimming pools, the normally shy foxes denning under people’s decks.

The culture of denial and these attempts by city staff to discredit honourable members of the community should be censured. They must be stopped if we are to achieve the environmental sustainability we know we are capable of in Surrey.

Donna Passmore, Fraser Valley Conservation Coalition

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