Almost 200 people packed a public meeting Thursday night over a plan to pave part of Bear Creek Park for a new parking lot.
Two religious temples on the southeast side of the park have told the city they need more parking spaces and have proposed paving a two-acre portion between the two places of worship – the Gurdwara Sahib Brookside and the Vedic Hindu Cultural Society.
The public meeting was held at Bear Creek Pavilion, with people lining up out the doors.
City staff say about two-thirds of attendees were members of the two temples who were in favour of the expanded parking lot.
Vinay Sharma, general secretary for the Vedic Hindu Society, said the parking area is greatly needed.
“As the community is growing in Surrey, there is a need for new things, for schools, recreation centres, need for more buses, need for more libraries,” Sharma said Friday. “Similarly, there is a need for more relief in the parking area” for people looking to worship or meditate.
Sharma said there were some good ideas brought forward, including a proposal to build a second level on the existing main parking lot in Bear Creek Park.
Area resident George Zaklan is vehemently opposed to paving over any portion of the park.
“The park needs protection, and it’s not going to get it,” Zaklan said, adding little consideration is being given to a nearby salmon stream.
“Salmon streams were never mentioned, never becoming an issue.“
He said this is about the fifth attempted “assault” on Bear Creek Park in the last two decades.
“Leave our park alone,” Zaklan said. “It’s not what’s best for us (individually), or what’s best for us as a city.“
The proposed new parking area would be located west of an existing parking lot, carving into Bear Creek Park to make room for 100 more stalls.
It would be on the west side of 140 Street, near 84 Avenue, between a Sikh gurdwara and a Hindu temple.
“It’s part of the south end of Bear Creek Park,” said Surrey parks manager Owen Croy. “It would be a shared parking lot, where it would be available to park patrons” as well as people using the two temples.
It’s hoped the extra parking will take pressure off nearby neighbourhoods that get packed with traffic during special events at both the temples and the park.
Staff recommendations from the meeting will go to the city’s parks committee and transportation, and then to Surrey council for a decision.
Coun. Linda Hepner, chair of the parks committee, said the idea for parking expansion didn’t originate from her group, but from the transportation committee, when she was not present.
“I would not have supported this to start with,” Hepner said, adding she’s had about a dozen calls from people.
“I’ve only gotten ‘what on Earth are you thinking?’ responses, which is where I would have put it to start with.“
Zaklan shares Hepner’s frustration.
“I’m disappointed that the City of Surrey allowed this can of worms to be opened,” Zaklan said, adding it’s caused an unnecessary “instability” in the community – “a factionalism that never should have happened.“