The City of Surrey has released renderings of proposed upgrades to Hawthorne Park, in the midst of embarking upon its 105 Avenue Connector Plan.
What do you think?
Meantime, as the city prepares to start clearing trees next month for the 105 Avenue Connector Project, opponents are ramping up efforts to halt the whole thing.
Following their decision to approve the controversial plan, the City of Surrey held a public meeting at Riverdale Elementary on Wednesday night.
While there was a positive response from some in attendance, opponents were out in full force, with “Save Hawthorne Park” badges.
One critic said she had seen enough of what the city had to offer.
“Once you destroy the earth, there’s no putting it back,” Sharon Buzik told the Now-Leader. “What’s going on in there makes me sick to my stomach. I had to leave, I couldn’t take much more.”
City council approved the project on Nov. 6 amid much controversy. The city insists the connector road is needed to reduce congestion in the area but more than 11,000 residents have voiced their opposition, largely due to the project’s plan to build a road through Hawthorne Park.
About 10 staff members were on hand Wednesday evening to answer questions about a few dozen billboards that were set up in the school’s gymnasium.
“We’re here tonight to gather some input and show some information that we already received through our first Hawthorne Park master plan,” said City of Surrey parks manager Neal Aven. “Having the public’s input is important to us. It’s vital to hear what they have to say, and they’ve given some good input tonight.”
Grant Rice, with the Save Hawthorne Park group, said he wasn’t happy with the format the city chose to express their plans for the project.
“We wanted to have a town hall type meeting,” said Rice. “The fact that this is the way that the city has decided to go is pretty disappointing.”
Rice said the group wanted to have their voices heard by city councillors.
Not all of the reaction was negative, however.
Aven said he received “positive input” on some tweaks to the Hawthorne Park project, including relocation of the parking area along with upgrading and relocating the playground and water park.
Steven Pettigrew founded the Save Hawthorne Park group. He said he believes not everything coming out of city hall regarding Hawthorne Park is forthright.
“There is a blanket of misinformation,” Pettigrew said.
“It’s a real mess.”
One bone of contention Pettigrew has is how many trees the city plans to cut down, versus how many it intends to plant. While he said city reports mention cutting down trees that are more than 30 centimetres wide, they neglect to mention the size of replacement trees.
Pettigrew said the city’s public meeting doesn’t make up for some of the project’s fallacies.
“It doesn’t change anything, I’m very much concerned,” he said. “They’re gonna start knocking down trees in a month, but they haven’t finished all of the preparation… In spite of that, they still want to start building this road in the second week of January.”
Pettigrew and other opponents have been fighting the project for months and their frustration was evident Wednesday.
“We have a lot of people involved of this,” he said. “In spite of all of that, it doesn’t matter. What’s going on tonight doesn’t change anything.”
Meanwhile, the project is about to begin construction.
The city says it will take a phased implementation approach with the connector project overall, with work beginning in January, 2018 through to the end of 2020.
Roadwork from 140th to 144th Streets will begin in January and some tree clearing is also planned next month to avoid the bird nesting season, the city told the Now-Leader.
In February, the city plans to start construction of a new trail in the park that would connect to the Quibble Creek greenway, then embark on the wetland habitats, a new Hawthorne Park parking lot, as well as construction on Whalley Boulevard to 140th Street.
The existing spray park and playground will remain open through the 2018 high use months.
But a new playground is set to be built and completed in 2018.
In the 2018 off-season, a replacement water park will be built, with a targeted opening of the summer of 2019.
Transportation manager Phillip Bellefontaine said while it has been suggested the park will close down for a year while works go on, “it’s important to stress that’s not the case.”
Ahead of the Wednesday night meeting, city staff gave the Now-Leader a preview of the information to be shared.
“Our goals are really just to have the public have an opportunity to review our project history, the context of the project and what the goals of the project are, to see how their input over the last number of months has shaped project design because it has evolved since our initial plans,” said Rosemary Silva, Surrey’s engineering communications manager.
Silva pointed to many changes made to the 105 Avenue Connector Project as a “direct result” of public input, including a narrower road corridor through the park with only one travel lane in each direction; removing on-street parking for the planned road; removing the 142nd Street connection; more biodiversity enhancements such as a new wetland habitat and wildlife crossings; a new walking trail connected to the Quibble Creek Greenway; and relocating the park’s parking lot to 144th Street for better visibility and access.
The city also intends to replace trees, add a new salmon rearing habitat, build new washrooms, as well as new bike and walking trails, and sheltered picnic areas.
Silva said $3 million in park improvements were approved along with the roadworks on Nov. 6. Another $3 million will be spent on Hawthorne Park’s master plan, totalling $6 million of improvements to the park in all, said Silva.
So far, Silva said the city has heard a destination-scale playground with amenities for all ages is desired, a parkour area for youth is being considered, as is a dog off-leash area.
At the information meeting, the city also revealed that a recent independent consultant study indicated the park’s bog no longer contains many of the species and ecosystem that function as a bog.
“As a result, the new wetland habitat will enhance biodiversity not currently occurring,” a city document states. “In addition to the net 200 trees in the expanded park area, 500 replacement trees will be planted within the road corridor boulevards, meaning a total 700 trees will be added throughout the project area.”
The City of Surrey has also promised a one-acre net increase to the park’s size, through acquisition of adjacent lands.