Green Timbers Urban Forest in Surrey is unique:
it consists mainly of trees planted from seedlings in the first
attempt at reforestation in British Columbia. It sits on a square
mile of forest astride the Fraser Highway. Stand by that highway
and look east, and youre directly facing Mount Baker. This
highway was originally the Yale Wagon Road to the interior, built
by the Royal Engineers in 1875. In 1923 it was renamed the Pacific
Highway when Surrey was linked by road to Blaine in Washington State.
We got that information from a web site established
by the Green Timbers Heritage Society, who act as the steward
of the Forest. Since 1987 the society has been working closely with
Surrey Parks, Recreation and Culture to improve the trails and open
the forest up to residents of Surrey for recreation and to advance
education about the forest and its plants and wildlife.
Writes Terri Clark of the Vancouver Parks
Board in The Greater Vancouver Book, Green Timbers
was, at the turn of the [20th] century, the only remaining stretch
of virgin forest between San Diego and Vancouver. Tourists would
come from all over to view these cathedral-like groves in a 5,000-acre
refuge. Despite proposals to have the forest declared a park, Green
Timbers was clear-cut by 1929, the entire population of trees lost
to feed a local sawmill.
The company that did much of that clear-cut work was King Farris
Lumber. Surrey historian Jack Brown has an interesting site
on early logging in northern Surrey here.
On March 15, 1930 a group of people gathered in
the Forestlocated at 140th Street and 96th Avenue in Surreyto
plant more than 120 baby trees in B.C.s first forest
plantation, the beginning of commercial reforestation here.
Guests at the ceremony were invited to plant trees, and Victor Harbord-Harbord,
a Province reporter covering the story, planted a Douglas
fir for the paper. We mention Harbord-Harbord specifically because
60 years later, to the day, two of Harbord-Harbords great-grandchildren
romped and chased each other beneath the very tree planted by their
late great-grandfather. Its still there.
And so is a tree planted by another Province writer, Chuck
Davis, on that anniversary date: March 15, 1990. By the way,
the size of Green Timbers had gone down to 560 acres.
The Green Timbers Heritage Society website
says, in part, "the Society was incorporated with the aim of
preserving the square mile of forest, which was replanted in the
1930s after it was logged, and then dedicated by the Tolmie government
to remain treed. Eventually the City of Surrey traded land on 192nd
Street in exchange for a major part of the forest. We thought the
forest was finally saved. However a former Surrey mayor thought
he had a better idea and logged a major section of the forest in
1987 to build a football stadium and parking lot.
Our Society took up the torch and fought to keep the forest
in its natural state. Working closely with the City Council we managed
to get a referendum passed by residents that saved the forest
from the football stadium. But we only saved the urban forest from
92 to 100 avenues.
The city councillors wanted to sell the forest land north
of 100 Avenue to developers for residential condominiums. The City
was offered $32 Million for the land. The Green Timbers Heritage
Society thought it was worth more to leave it as forest. The City
called another referendum and 97 per cent of citizens supported
keeping it as a forest. While the Society was trying to save this
part of the forest, they built trails through it connecting this
section of the forest with the rest of Green Timbers.
Over the years the Society has raised hundreds of thousands
of dollars for work in the forest. All the trails are now built
to high standards and with bridges and gravel they are passable
all year long. The Society also manages a program called Surrey
Stewardship of Natural Areas Partnership (SSNAP). It is a partnership
between five environmental groups in Surrey managed by the Green
Timbers Heritage Society. Four to five university students are hired
to work in Surrey forests and parks from May to the end of August.
The Society is a wholly volunteer-run organization and any money
raised goes directly into the forest. Volunteers are needed for
trail building and tour guides work.
A forest nursery and forestry training and education centre
have been established there. 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.
As a natural heritage, it is potentially one of the most
spectacular urban forests in Canada.
Our thanks to Peter Maarsman of Green Timbers Heritage Society
for his invaluable help in presenting this item.
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