A big turnout is expected in Surrey, B.C. Thursday evening, as residents plan to demonstrate against the city's plan to build a road through Hawthorne Park on 105 Avenue and 144 Street.
The project — which includes two lanes of traffic, bike lanes and lighting —cleared a major hurdle with city council last month.
A final decision on whether it will proceed is expected sometime this fall.
"What bothers me most is that the city has an agenda and they know exactly what they want to do and it makes no difference what we do," said rally organizer Steven Pettigrew.
"We got 5,000 signatures on a petition and I'm told that's a lot. We went to a delegation meeting and it was standing room only. No matter what we do, they just know exactly what their agenda is and they're going to push it ahead. They have no interest in listening to the community."
Hawthorne Park is about 22 hectares in size and Pettigrew says it's home to several species of birds and other types of wildlife.
Mayor in favour
Mayor Linda Hepner recently wrote an open letter in the Surrey Now Leader, explaining she believes the project is needed to connect the communities of Whalley and Guildford.
She also pointed out that council amended the original plan after consulting with the community.
Councillor Bruce Hayne said any park land that will be lost — including the 250 trees that will be have to be removed — is being replaced by the acquisition of new green space.
"We spend upwards of $20 million a year on park acquisition, so I feel comfortable as chair of parks and recreation that we do place parks very high on our list of priorities in this city," said Hayne during last month's council meeting.
"When these kind of conflicts come along, where infrastructure, transportation and servicing come into contact with parks, then we have to look at it very carefully."
For the Save Hawthorne Park group to stop the project if passed by council, it will have to go through the alternative approval process.
That would require ten percent of Surrey voters — which works out to more than 30,000 people — to fill out a form by September 22.
"We were all sort of wondering if it was even possible to do it," said rally organizer Tracie Woodhams.
"The reason I think [it's possible] is because we have something on our side and I hope the people of Surrey get it. If they can do this do this park, just put a road through it for no reason, they can do it anywhere."
If the group is able to get enough signatures, council can either kill the project or put it to a public referendum.
"I'd love to see this go to a referendum," Pettigrew said.
"There's a huge upwelling of resentment out there and they feel that the developers run this city."