Green Timbers ‘is our Stanley Park’ – “Now Newspaper Wednesday January 19th, 2005” – by Stacy Pavlov

Have you ever wondered what type of interesting plant or mushroom you’ve spotted nestled in the forest floor or what animal is scurrying amongst the vegetation as you stroll the groomed paths in Green Timbers Park?

Peter Maarsman and Ian McLean of the Green Timbers Heritage Society could probably tell you exactly what you’ve found in Surrey’s 413-acre (167-hectare) parkland.

For the past 17 years Maarsman has been involved with the Green Timbers Heritage Society, a volunteer organization whose mandate is to protect, reserve and maintain the park as well as educate the public on the importance of these things.

“To have such a nice forest right in the middle of the city is something you don’t want to lose,” comments Maarsman, who’s been the society’s president for much of his involvement.

He recalls back when he was a young boy living in Surrey the air was crisp, clean and pure. Now, he says, it’s becoming more like big metropolitan cities.

“Green Timbers is our Stanley Park.”
Volunteers like Maarsman dedicate hours of their time each week trying to educate and encourage the people of Surrey to take advantage and learn all they can of the park’s importance. He and others believe precious lands such as Green Timbers Park are all too fast disappearing from Surrey.

“There’s so much being taken away from nature. If people could just live with nature and preserve it,” says McLean, past-president, educational facilitator, and park advisory board chairperson for the society.

Even the frogs are becoming fewer and fewer.
“The sub species are the bellweather. If they start to become extinct, we know we’ve got a problem,” comments Maarsman. “It’s much more than just the trees.”
To get people excited about the importance of the park’s preservation, McLean and other volunteers provide guided nature tours, keep trails groomed, do sporadic re-planting of naturally occurring park vegetation and provide educational materials such as brochures talking about the park and its role.

Twice a week McLean takes visitors to the park on tours educating them about the wetlands, the park’s lake stocked with trout, the vegetation, the animals and the environment. This information can also be found at the park’s kiosk or on the website.

Wanted: kids to get involved! in heritage

McLean and other volunteers also take the time to conduct field trips and tours for cadets, scouts and school children.

“We would really like to get the children more involved,” says McLean, who often has various environmental specialists join him on tours.

Because the City of Surrey owns Green Timbers Park, with the exception of 148 acres (60 hectares) of provin-cially owned parkland not open to the public, the city does play a role in all of this.

Parks, Recreation and Culture Environmental Program Co-ordinator Lanny Englund works with the volunteer group providing them with some financial and manpower support for trail building activities and printed educational materials.

“Not many of the city’s parks have such a society as the Green Timbers Heritage Society,” says Englund.

The park’s society is also in partnership with the city’s SSNAP (Surrey Stewardship of Natural Areas Partnership) program that brings in university students to work on habitat enhancement and environmental protection in the park for four months of the year.

But much of the park’s funding comes from the volunteers’ efforts. Funds are received from larger local businesses, some private donations, as well as the city.

As protected and cared for as it is today, Green Timbers Park wasn’t always that way. It wasn’t until the late 1980s when development threatened to take away a chunk of Green Timbers that people stood up and took action to protect the park.

Maarsman explains the city wanted to build a football stadium in the park, which caused some uproar among residents.

“The society started back then because of the stadium the city want to build. We held a referendum and we were successful at protecting the park,” recalls Maarsman.

That wasn’t the only time development tried to find its way into park boundaries. Several years later developers and the city wanted to build condominiums on 160 acres of the park. Another referendum was held and it found 97 per cent of people supported protecting and preserving the park.

As for the long-range goals for the park, Maarsman says he would like to see a forest museum and classroom facility included in the park. As soon as next year he hopes a program called the Echo Rangers will be in place. This will see volunteers patrolling the park during open hours to try and prevent much of the vandalism that occurs.

“We would like to have a bigger people presence in the park. This would not only cut down on vandalism, but the volunteers would provide information to visitors,” Maarsman says.

If you are interested in becoming a park volunteer for Green Timbers or any of Surrey’s other parks, phone 604-501-5050 for information.