SURREY – Green Timbers Urban Forest is unique in that it consists mainly of tree planted from seedlings in the first attempt at reforestation in British Columbia. It consists of a square mile of forest located astride Fraser Highway facing Mount Baker. Originally this was the Yale Wagon Road to the interior, built by a company of Royal Engineers in 1875. In 1923 it was renamed the Pacific Highway when Surrey was linked by road to Blaine in Washington State.
Set in the centre of Surrey’s urban development, Green Timbers once belonged to a forest of giant trees which spread over 5,000 acres. Until 1929, people travelled from afar to view the 200- foot timber that lined the highway. After completion of Pacific Highway, it became famous as the only remaining stretch of virgin forest all the way from San Diego to Vancouver. As early as 1860, attempts were made to have the area designated for park purposes.
Nevertheless, all 5,000 acres were clear-cut. The last giant trees were felled in 1930 despite a campaign to save them. Sadly, dignitaries were on hand to witness this historical event. Thus ended seven years of logging by King and Farris Company, which had used Surrey’s Green Timbers to feed their Newton based sawmill. Reforestation was begun by the BC Forest Service. The occasion was observed on March15, 1930 with the planting of an Inaugural Plantation which still stands today. Planting continued through the “dirty thirties”. An Arboretum of foreign trees, a group of Garry Oak and a plot of Eastern Red Pine were added for experimental purposes. A forest nursery and forestry training and education centre were established.
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.
In 1966, 33acres of the forest reserve became the site of Douglas College. In 1970, 400 acres were transferred by a trade to The City Of Surrey. 100 Avenue was cut through a few years later, separating 40 acres to the north, and 96 Avenue was widened and extended to 140 street.
In 1987 there was a public outcry to save 42 acres which had been cleared for a sports complex. The Green Timbers Heritage Society was formed to save this area as part of Green Timbers. In its efforts it attracted a 1,000 strong membership. After eight years of lobbying, the 42 acre area has now been designated as part of Green Timbers with a lake and wetland added by broadening and deepening King Creek. Hundreds of trees have been planted there, including about thirty indigenous plant species which are new to the forest.
It took two referendums, spearheaded by the Green Timbers Heritage Society, to secure the rest of Green Timbers as an urban forest park; the first in 1988 won by an 86% yes vote; the second in 1996 won by a 95% yes vote. The 1996 vote added a further 53.3 acres north of 100 Avenue.
Today, including the Ministry of Forests area, the Green Timbers forest covers a total of 560 acres. It is a mix of the remnants of reforestation and natural regrowth. As a natural heritage, it is potentially one of the most spectacular urban forest in Canada. (Source: Green Timbers Heritage Society, Photos by: Esmir Milavic)