I met this wonderful woman while our kids were at ice skating lessons together. She agreed to write a blog post for me! She grew up in South Surrey, Grandview Heights in particular, and has a very important viewpoint to share. Read on! (The original is at her new blog)
The high rises that are modelled on the City of Surrey’s logo are not the high rises I grew up with or would ever care to grow up with, even today.
For me, the Douglas Fir trees towering on the horizon along 24th Ave, as I navigate my way South on 176th street, are the high rises of my childhood. I can remember driving back from the Okanagan and seeing that tall, welcoming passage of evergreens looming in the distance, a symbol of the “homestretch”.
These iconic trees, are the “WELCOME HOME” banner painted across the skyline, the roots of a healthy, happy community and the grandeur that I believe still exists within Grandview Heights despite the urbanization that is consuming vast hectares of its rural properties.
My old stomping grounds, the green dots representing previous homes my family owned including the property at the corner of 176th street and 24th Ave that my father still owns. The blue dot is the elementary school I attended.
Nestled within South Surrey, Grandview Heights has a rich history, and the Douglas fir trees along with the mighty Redwoods are a huge part of it. The trees provide our natural ecosystem with so much stability, diversity, and strength, and attracted to the area , it’s very first settlers. Logging, incidentally, really helped pave the way for our great city.
Grandview Heights was originally a logging region. The Royal City Planing Mills established an operation east of Elgin near the Nicomekl River to log the areas south of Kensington Prairie. In
1886, a logging railway was built east through Grandview Heights. At the west of the line, logs were dumped into a ditch and floated into the Nicomekl River.
Grandview Heights has always been sparsely populated. A 1910 map shows the Royal City Planing Mills and the Government owning about half the land in the area.The subsequent development was small lot agricultural. The area was opened up through the construction of the Pacific Highway, which opened on August 3, 1923 and connected to the border crossing at Douglas. A number of very modest buildings were constructed throughout the area during 1920s and 1930s. After the end of the Second World War, further subdivision occurred for the development of large estate lots.
The settlement of Grandview Heights began with David Brown, who arrived in Surrey in 1878 and took up residence at the corner of the Clover Valley and North Bluff Roads (176th and 16th). Brown’s sons Peter and David were avid tree collectors and donated the land for what is now Redwood Park.
There’s a little bit of history preserved within the forest of Redwood Park and I remember going on many class field trips there when I attended school at Grandview Heights Elementary.
Grandview Heights was named at the time the school was being built. As Alex McBeth, was helping to shingle the roof he could see Semiahmoo Bay, Blaine and all the country side around. He said, “What a grand view!”, and someone suggested that as the name of the school Grandview Heights.
One teacher at GHE, in particular, was able to really mentor his students, myself included, to be more mindful of the environment. His name is Mr Lynn Pollard and I believe he is still mentoring children today with the Young Naturalists’ Club of BC.
Growing up with the trees, and in my little naive, unsuspecting rural bubble, I never dreamed that these stomping grounds would one day be paved into someone else’s urban residence.
Many homeowners within this community have already experienced the devastating effects of the urbanization of this once rural area. They’ve witnessed trees ripped from their horizon and felt first hand how developers and big box companies can swoop in and hook their talons into some of the prime real estate surrounding us.
The same real estate that has been shared for the past many years with the majestic eagles, gliding overhead, who take up residence high atop the trees they depend on, to nest. (More on the South Surrey Eagles…not the Hockey team!)
The same real estate my children’s great granddad had built a beautiful brick home on, by the sweat of his brow. The home that would later be knocked down and bulldozed to make way for a 97 unit townhouse complex where his daughter-in-law now lives. Units so close together, it seems the only way to maintain ones sense of privacy is to draw the blinds tightly closed so as not to peer into a neighbours bedroom while drinking coffee at your kitchen table in the morning. Where the echoes of your neighbours voices can be heard as though you were sitting right next to them. Sheepishly avoiding eye contact as you head out for the day, knowing so much about them, while not knowing them at all. And perhaps our sense of pride in our community lessens as the neighbourhood morale wanes.
With real estate prices soaring within an aging community looking to retire, coupled with a demand for affordable housing by younger families just wanting to get their foot in the door of this serene-yet-trendy living, we are seeing large parcels of land getting bought up and more & more development proposal signs littering the landscape. And in keeping up with our metropolitan neighbours, we’ve committed ourselves to the metaphorical knife of cosmetic surgery, in our slogan “the future lives here”. The Grandview Cornersshopping district and the numerous high density “cluster-type” townhome complexes, have left the area forever altered and almost unrecognizable.
Grandview’s face lift will no doubt be met with some resistance as it leaves scars fromcanopy loss that may take years, even decades, to recover from.
These gentle giants should be given much more consideration amongst the development that has taken place in our cherished little community.
While I grieve for the loss of the many trees that once stood tall and proud in this area, I’d be remisced not to mention that I conveniently work in the Grandview Corners area, a mere 5 minute commute from home. And of course I fully intend to take advantage of the new aquatic center with my kids when it’s complete.
That being said, I would like to see the Ciy of Surrey live up to it’s promise to keep Surrey green (and not with greed or envy) and preserve wherever possible these beautiful giants in our ever-changing architecture.
Only slightly further east of this rapid development taking place is where I lived in my 2nd & 3rd childhood homes. And while they no longer remain in my families possession, I still feel the roots of those old growth trees surrounding the land and feel the nostalgia when I drive along 24th Avenue and past 174th Street, peering down the lane at the homes on one acre parcels that will hopefully remain as such.
And I wonder …Are we still the city of parks? Or are we focussing now on a new slogan which involves building up high rises and high density urban style living? The alteration of Surrey’s Logo from a fuzzy, tree_chewing beaver to the metropolitan design of the future has me questioning
With Arbor Day just around the corner, I would like to see what the city has to offer in terms of replanting trees in neighbourhoods that have experienced significant canopy loss(to see Arbor Day activities in Surrey click here). Maybe we can provide Grandview with some much needed “re-leaf“ planting, nurturing, and preserving trees growing up in Grandview so that my kids can also enjoy growing up in Grandview.
I want to thank the Grandview Heights Stewardship Association as well as Alisa Ramakrishnan for inspiring and encouraging people like me to be more involved and not take a back seat with regards to the developments taking place all around us. Change is happening and can still happen. I’ve heard comments about tree loss from others saying “It’s a bit late now, isn’t it?” and others who see what’s happening and think it’s appalling, however don’t feel as though they have a voice to be heard. Look around! We still have so much to preserve and to develop. This place has all the potential of being a perfect paradise to retire or raise a family in and we need to ensure we have done all we can to accommodate the future that will inevitably live here, while maintaining the happy, healthy tree canopy that we love so much.