David Suzuki joins Surrey's protest to save Hawthorne Park

The city is proposing to build a 2-lane roadway, with bike lanes, through the park, which is between 140 Street and 144 Street, to make way for Light Rail Transit in the area.

City proposing to build a 2-lane road through the park between Whalley Boulevard and 150 Street

Environmentalist David Suzuki attended a rally in Surrey on September 16, 2017 to protest the city's plan to build a new two-lane road through Hawthorne Park. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

A group of Surrey residents opposing a plan to build a new two-lane road through a popular park received a powerful voice of support at a rally on Saturday.

"I'm here to speak as one individual, as a grandfather, as a scientist and as an elder," said Dr. David Suzuki who commended residents for their push to preserve Hawthorne Park, which is located between 140 Street and 144 Street, north of 104 Avenue.

Earlier this summer the City of Surrey voted in favour of removing Hawthorne Park's protected status so that the road could be built through its southern portion. The park is about 22 hectares in size.

Suzuki says planners are losing sight of the importance of natural space in urban areas.

"Human beings have lost the sense of community that ties them to a place, and I don't mean the community of other human beings, I mean the community of the other organisms on the planet that keep us healthy and alive that we are intimately connected to and dependent on."

The goal of the project is to reduce congestion along 104 Street and lay the groundwork for future Light Rail Transit.

"The road is to connect the city centre over to Guildford," said Mike Starchuck, a Surrey city councillor.

A rendering from the City of Surrey showing its 105 Avenue corridor project — a two-lane road between Whalley Boulevard and 150 Street. (City of Surrey)

Many residents are outraged over the plan and have accused the city of not conducting adequate public consultations.

A similar rally was held in opposition to the project in August.

"They expect us to play in a road where we can get run over? Not a good idea," said local resident Miguel Rodriguez.

Others like Kim Waite can't believe the city would even consider putting a road through a park.

"It's just devastating," she said.

Hundreds of Surrey residents gathered on Saturday, September 16, 2017 at Surrey City Centre to protest the plans to build a road through Hawthorne Park, something the city says it needs to do to reach its LRT goals. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Still, the city amended its plans after hearing from residents at a public meeting in June.

There will now be a net increase in total parkland space by one acre. Two hundred trees are also set to be added, along with additional habitat areas and other amenities.

"When I take a look at what we're going to improve in that park with the habitat and the additional land that's to the north there, I think the park itself has the ability to be a little bit better than what it is today," said Starchuck, who describes the public consultations on the project as extensive.

'Chain ourselves together'

Those opposed to the project need to show the city that 10 per cent of the electorate are against it, if there is a hope to have it cancelled.

That means that 30,000 signatures will need to be collected by Sept. 22.

Steven Pettigrew, the campaign director for Save Hawthorne Park, says volunteers are working furiously to collect the signatures. If they don't get the amount they need, more desperate actions could come next.

"I've had hundreds of people come up to me and say we'll chain ourselves together, we'll chain ourselves in front of the tractors — they're not going to build this road."

With files fromJon Hernandez.