Pavement threatens park – “Now Newspaper September 29th, 2004
by Ted Colley

A prominent Surrey environmentalist fears the widening of Fraser Highway could cause the loss of 300 or more trees in Green Timbers urban forest.

Peter Maarsman is president-elect of the Green Timbers Heritage Society, an organization created nearly 20 years ago to preserve and protect the forest, which is bisected by the highway.

Fraser Highway is being widened between 151st and 179th streets in three phases. Phase 1, from 151st to 160th, was completed last year and Phase 2, from 160th to 168th, is currently underway. The third section, the part that runs hrough the forest from 168th to 179th, is under design and won’t be built for some time.

Maarsman is afraid the highway project will lead to the death of many trees in the forest.

“When you compact soil (for the highway roadbed) it pushes the water level down,” Maarsman said.

“Old trees can’t adapt, they can’t go down for the water like young trees. They’ll die.”

Maarsman said his organization met with city engineers in June to pass on their concerns and notify them they intended to take the issue to council. According to Maarsman, the engineers asked them not to go to council.

“They talked us out of talking to council. They talked us out of talking to the edia, too. They said they would get a consultant to sit down with us and them and ork out the best way to do this for Green Timbers,” he said.

Maarsman said he was promised a meeting with the consultant in a week or so. Four months later, he said, they’re still waiting. Maarsman accused the ngineering department of reneging on its promise of consultation.

“They still haven’t called that meeting. We haven’t heard anything from them. e’ve been operating in good faith. We promised not to go to the media, but now, to heck with them.”

Paul Ham is Surrey’s general manager of engineering. He said the department isn’t ducking out on consultation, it just hasn’t had time to get things set up.

“I guess it’s just taking longer than we anticipated. The city’s concentrating on widening Fraser Highway to the east of Green Timbers. Just because we haven’t done anything, they’re thinking we’re scheming behind their backs. We’re not. We’ve just been busy elsewhere.”

Ham said the Green Timbers portion of the highway project won’t be done before 2006 or 2007. He said staff are working on a way to do it without taking out more than about 60 trees.

Ham said he expects to have a consultant available to sit down with the society in a month.

Mayor Doug McCallum said he won’t go along with widening the highway if it means losing a significant number of trees. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s not going to happen if we have to take out a whole bunch of trees,” the mayor said.

McCallum, who chairs the TransLink board, said he thinks it will be at least 10 years before the highway will be widened through Green Timbers. He said TransLink is a major source of funding for the project and there’s no money for it in the transit authority’s five-year budget.