SURREY — Crews are preparing to start bringing trees down today Hawthorne Park today (Jan. 9) and opponents are gathering in protest.
An angry – and tired – Tracie Woodhams was one of about dozen protesters at the park Tuesday morning.
“You have no idea how exhausted some of us are with all of the stuff we have had to do, all the hoops we have had to jump through,” said Woodhams, who held high a yellow sign that read “Save Hawthorne Park,” cars honking as they went by.
“And the fact it appears as if nobody is listening.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Surrey resident Richard Landale told the Now-Leader he was “heartbroken” as chainsaws could be heard in Hawthorne Park. He says council wants LRT “at any price – the environment is the price.”
After a Supreme Court ruling Monday dismissed a Surrey woman’s efforts to halt the City of Surrey’s controversial plan to build a road through the park, construction is beginning.
Despite the effort in court, and more than 11,000 Surrey residents formally voicing their disapproval of the project, it is moving ahead.
See more: VIDEO: Hawthorne Park fight not over after judge dismisses bid to halt plans
See also: Emotions high after Surrey approves controversial road through Hawthorne Park
See also: VIDEO: ‘Save Hawthorne Park’ group delivers petition to Surrey City Hall – complete with a song
On Tuesday morning, Project Manager Victor Jhingan told the Now-Leader trees were set to be felled later in the day, if preparatory work is completed.
The contractor had already been undertaking preparation work for tree clearing prior to Monday’s court decision, including installing fencing and doing sediment control and other environmental protection work to ensure the site is secure before clearing begins, said Jhingan.
Tree clearing should be done by the week’s end, he added.
“By the end of this week work should be done for trees to be felled… and excavation would begin to make way for the road construction…. Over the next few months you’ll see a lot of earth works being done, removal of material and importing granular materials to allow for the ground to settle… road construction will start after that.”
While the city says it’s taking down about 200 trees, opponents claim its more like 2,000.
Leader of the Save Hawthorne Park group Steven Pettigrew has said members are prepared to block bulldozers, if it comes to that.
At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Pettigrew was preparing to head to the site in protest, with the intention to stay for the remainder of the day.
“We’re going to have a last stand,” he told the Now-Leader Tuesday morning. “We’re going to rally everybody there and have our last show of defiance to show support for the park…. By Friday, it’ll be done. We can continue to protest next week but the damage is done once the trees are down.”
Aside from protesting, Pettigrew said “we have other things on the go that are coming out soon. This is the week.”
Pettigrew said despite beginning construction, the city still hasn’t “got all their ducks in order.”
According to Pettigrew, the city still has three properties to expropriate in order to build the completed 105 Avenue connector road, and details about replacing the Hjorth Road Elementary school’s field – which the planned road would cut through – have yet to be solidified.
“And there’s still three properties at the north end of Hawthorne Park they want to buy,” he added.
In response, Project Manager Jhingan said the project is being implemented “on a phased construction approach, as we would with any large project of this scope.”
“The City has secured the necessary land required for the current phase of construction between 140th Street and 144th Street, and we are actively negotiating with property owners, including the School District, for the remaining land needed for subsequent phases of the project,” added Jhingan.
See also: VIDEO: Save Hawthorne Park members stage protest against tree cutting for road in Surrey Park (Jan. 3, 2018)
See also: PHOTOS: Renderings of proposed upgrades to Surrey’s Hawthorne Park
The City of Surrey has awarded the contract to complete phase one of the Hawthorne Park project to Tybo Contracting Ltd. Phase one of the contract is expected to be finished by Sept. 28, 2018. Estimates show that phase one should cost about $11.25 million.
The park will remain open to the public during construction, the city says. In addition to the road construction, the city is doing park improvements, creating new wetland habitats, relocating the existing parking lot and building a new entry plaza, Jhingan noted.
The main parking lot will be closed, but additional parking will be made available at the north end of the park, the city says.
The road through the park is one portion of the City of Surrey’s 105 Avenue Connector project.
The city’s justification for the connector road is to move utilities off 104 Avenue in preparation for light rail, that it’s been in the city’s Official Community Plan since 1986, and to create an east-west connector to Whalley Boulevard to 150 Street to ease traffic and reduce congestion.
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner recently told the Now-Leader that the 105 Avenue Connector Road project will improve access, circulation, and connectivity for the community between City Centre and Guildford, as well as improving the local transportation network.
Hepner insisted that the size of Hawthorne Rotary Park will not be diminished by the project.
“In fact, as part of the 105 Avenue Connector project, the City has been actively working on acquiring new lands to preserve as parkland, including high quality bio-diverse properties adjacent to the existing park,” Hepner said. “The land acquisitions will grow Hawthorne Rotary Park by more than one acre over its current size and add more than 200 new and substantial trees to the park.”
Stay tuned to this page for live updates as protesters ramp up at the park today.