Historical Background

Photo: John W. Berry, MLS, planting tree No. 2 in the Inaugural Plantation, March 15, 1930. Others, left-right: Colonel Nelson Spencer, young Tom Berry, MLA Mike Manson, Peter Z. Caverhill (Chief Engineer), and Ed Walmsley (Land Agent), resting foot on log.

Photo: John W. Berry, MLS, planting tree No. 2 in the Inaugural Plantation, March 15, 1930. Others, left-right: Colonel Nelson Spencer, young Tom Berry, MLA Mike Manson, Peter Z. Caverhill (Chief Engineer), and Ed Walmsley (Land Agent), resting foot on log.

Green Timbers Urban Forest is unique in that it consists mainly of tree planted from seedlings in the first attempt at reforestation in British Columbia. It consists of a square mile of forest located astride Fraser Highway facing Mount Baker. Originally this was the Yale Wagon Road to the interior, built by a company of Royal Engineers in 1875. In 1923 it was renamed the Pacific Highway when Surrey was linked by road to Blaine in Washington State.

Set in the centre of Surrey's urban development, Green Timbers once belonged to a forest of giant trees which spread over 5,000 acres. Until 1929, people travelled from afar to view the 200- foot timber that lined the highway. After completion of Pacific Highway, it became famous as the only remaining stretch of virgin forest all the way from San Diego to Vancouver. As early as 1860, attempts were made to have the area designated for park purposes.

Nevertheless, all 5,000 acres were clear-cut. The last giant trees were felled in 1930 despite a campaign to save them. Sadly, dignitaries were on hand to witness this historical event. Thus ended seven years of logging by King and Farris Company, which had used Surrey's Green Timbers to feed their Newton based sawmill. Reforestation was begun by the BC Forest Service. The occasion was observed on March15, 1930 with the planting of an Inaugural Plantation which still stands today. Planting continued through the "dirty thirties". An Arboretum of foreign trees, a group of Garry Oak and a plot of Eastern Red Pine were added for experimental purposes. A forest nursery and forestry training and education centre were established.

The forest is home to many species of animal and birds, as well as plants, like the protected Western Trillium and the rare Rattlesnake Plantain and Coral-root Orchid. It is the source of King Creek which flows into Bear Creek and eventually into the Serpentine River.

In 1966, 33acres of the forest reserve became the site of Douglas College. In 1970, 400 acres were transferred by a trade to The City Of Surrey. 100 Avenue was cut through a few years later, separating 40 acres to the north, and 96 Avenue was widened and extended to 140 street.

In 1987 there was a public outcry to save 42 acres which had been cleared for a sports complex. The Green Timbers Heritage Society was formed to save this area as part of Green Timbers. In its efforts it attracted a 1,000 strong membership. After eight years of lobbying, the 42 acre area has now been designated as part of Green Timbers with a lake and wetland added by broadening and deepening King Creek. Hundreds of trees have been planted there, including about thirty indigenous plant species which are new to the forest.

It took two referendums, spearheaded by the Green Timbers Heritage Society, to secure the rest of Green Timbers as an urban forest park; the first in 1988 won by an 86% yes vote; the second in 1996 won by a 95% yes vote. The 1996 vote added a further 53.3 acres north of 100 Avenue.

Today, including the Ministry of Forests area, the Green Timbers forest covers a total of 560 acres. It is a mix of the remnants of reforestation and natural regrowth. As a natural heritage, it is potentially one of the most spectacular urban forest in Canada.

Our Growing Forests in North Surrey

The year 2006 has seen a large increase in the forested land to be administered by Surrey Parks in partnership of the Green Timbers Heritage Society, and other environmental groups.

The entrance to the Arboretum from 140th street

The Western half of the Green Timbers square mile that included the Forestry nursery, Arboretum, and teaching facilty has reverted to new stewardship. The Forestry nursery will become headquarters for the RCMP, E Division and the Arboretum, and two forest plantings nearby become Surrey Parks responsibility.

An Aerial View of BC Forestry Nursery and Arboretum (in purple)

Green Timbers Heritage Society has worked for many years with the Ministry establishing a Commemorative forest, maintaining the Inaugural plantation and identifying and marking trees in the Arboretum.

The Arboretum is a small forest of 140 species of trees from around the world. The trees were planted in the 1930s, and to-date seventy-seven species have survived. Of these, 130 trees have been identified, posted, and marked by the Green Timbers Society.

The Green Timbers Heritage Society is indebted to Bela Sivak for identifying the many species in the Arboretum

In fond memory of Bela Sivak who spent many days identifying the different species of trees that have survived in the Ministry of Forests Arboretum in Surrey, BC. Bela tied Jn June 2005.

Bela was a respected forester, teacher, and member of the Green Timbers Heritage Society.

A heritage house built in 1930 by the Forestry Ministry, near the Arboretum.


Ellen came across this poem from one old friend to another when they were saddened by the loss of natural habitat in the early 90s. They were friends for close to 80 years...and called each other, Jake and Joe. John died 2003, age 89 and Harry 2005, age 92. They grew up in various parts of Surrey, and knew it well. Today, Ellen is sure they would have been pleased with the way that the Green Timbers Heritage Society's projects have brought new life to the forest and the creeks. This poem is printed by hand on a slice of vine maple that Harry gave to John. On the back are two marks in the wood that look like tears, so Harry carved out two eyes and a sad mouth...to complete his message. This poem was forwarded by Ellen Edwards, daughter of John Tompson, remembering the days of her roots, at Bear Creek...

To John Tompson

In 1926, many years ago,
Two lads met, Jake and Joe.
By Bear Creek, crystal clear,
There roamed the bear - the deer.

In spring stood a doe with new born fawn,
In fall, salmon swimming up to spawn.
In 1925 after the big slash fire,
Wild blackberries and fireweed -
Blossoms to admire.

The two boys walked the trail
At the back,
On rainy days, playing in Jimmy's shack.
On the trail where they took their hikes,
Passing Mr. Nixon's old ram pikes.

The bridge over Bear Creek,
Constructed of logs,
At night hearing the sound of the frogs.

The old growth Green Timbers
Standing close by,
Its mighty tree tops reach to the sky.
Gone are the old growth, and
Creek waters so clear...
Gone are the salmon, the bear and the deer.

Now what do Jake and Joe think of this?
All that remains -
Memories to reminisce.

News & Events

Prev Next

National Forest Week in Surrey - Sep…

National Forest Week in Surrey September 21-27, 2014 Surrey has many forested areas to enjoy, so it's easy to get outside to celebrate this special week. Check out the events at: h... Read more

Upcoming meetings

Thursday, September 4, 7pm - Board of Directors meeting.    Thursday, November 6, 7pm - Annual General Meeting Read more

World Ocean Day - Jun 8, 2014

June 8 at Blackie SpitWe're looking for volunteers to help staff our boothhttp://www.surrey.ca/culture-recreation/11253.aspx Read more

Salmon workshop - May, 2014

Salmon workshop - May, 2014

Postponed until May, 2014 Evergreen, a national organization that aims to inspire action to green cities, is organizing an upcoming Salmon in the City Workshop about the importanc... Read more

Party for the Planet - April 26,…

April 26 at City Hall PlazaWe're looking for volunteers to help staff our boothhttp://www.surrey.ca/partyfortheplanet/   Read more

Discovery Days - Mar 26, 2014

March 26 at the Surrey Nature CentreMeet a nature guide who will get you started with your discoveries in the forest.  Create an eco-craft, explore with a scavenger hunt and and le... Read more

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar

Western Red Cedar – submitted by Peter Maarsman One of the questions we get asked is, “What is the official tree of British Columbia?” Answer:  It is the Western Red Cedar and it ... Read more

Summer 2012 Story

Summer 2012 Story

What happens to blown-over trees?    by Peter Maarsman During the winter and spring, there have been a lot of strong winds which have blown over more trees. I get asked all the tim... Read more

Summer Handout 2012

Summer Handout 2012

Message from the GTHS Past-President, Peter Maarsman What a beautiful time to be in Green Timbers Forest. It is a time of rebirth and there is excitement all over the forest as tr... Read more

Volunteer Request Form

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY REQUEST FORM Our Mission Volunteer Resources leads the growth and development of the City of Surrey's volunteer movement by: • Continually ... Read more

GTHS eNewsletter


Follow Green Timbers


Green Timbers Heritage Society

© 2002-2014, Green Timbers Heritage Society. All Rights Reserved! 14225 Green Timbers Way, Surrey, BC V3T 0J2