Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What Robson Ravine means to me.

When I was a child I had a special stream that I used to play in. I was at my happiest while I was there with the tadpoles and frogs, building dams and redirecting water flow and wading through the clear water. It was magical - that carefree feeling of freedom, no responsibilities, running down the front step and off to a warm summer day exploring the creek.
Later on in life I went back there to find it had been changed into a concrete channel. Predictable drops in water level, a railing by the roadside and no vegetation or wildlife to speak of.

My disappointment was so great. I could feel it grab my soul and crush it till the tears flowed.

When I moved to Surrey, I was delighted to discover the beautiful natural ravines in Northwest Surrey near my home. At the bottom of Robson Ravine flows a small stream and when I hiked this ravine I found that carefree happy feeling of my childhood again. I was so grateful that my daughter had the chance to play in a natural stream like I did.
For some members in our community, Robson Ravine is that stream from their childhood. They roamed its banks and now their children have played there. I imagine when they heard of the Sanitary Sewer Replacement Project they feared that same feeling of disappointment I had when my childhood stream changed. Although we are being reassured the creek will remain untouched, as few trees as possible removed and the trail rebuilt, it will never quite be the same once they install wide gravel paths and protective fencing.
 Robson Ravine is one of the few remaining natural ravine trails left in Surrey. This project will remove something precious and irreplaceable from our landscape.

The parks in Surrey continue to be urbanized to a point where to me they feel very distant from nature. Holland Park had  many trees removed and huge swathes of cement installed with geometrically laid out tended gardens. This is not nature, it is an urban park. In my opinion a poor substitute for the real thing. Robson Park which is across the street from the ravine was also modified into wide open spaces with little shade and very little personality. The natural area is fenced off so that humans will not ruin the wildlife's habitat.

I moved to Surrey 20 years ago, and since that time the city has changed dramatically. Block of trees are being removed along with every living thing in order to make room for large new developments. Trees are being removed one by one along whole city streets until the rooftops seem to loom dangerously overhead. Parking for cars and large homes with multiple suites are becoming the prefered use of land and nature is being taken from our landscape slowly but surely.

Robson Ravine is a precious, green gem in the landscape of Surrey which holds memories of a whole lifetime for so many. There are so few places left like this in our city. Please visit Robson Ravine and enjoy it in its current natural state. While the ravine path will be rebuilt, and new trees planted to replace the old,  it will never quite be the same wild and untamed spot it has been.

Please visit this page for Current Information on the Project.
Visit here for all my photos I've taken of the ravine lately, before it is changed.
Visit here for pictures of the ravine set to music.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Robson Ravine will soon be forever changed.

The City of Surrey is about to commence on a Sanitary Sewer Replacement Project in Robson Park and Ravine this summer. The ravine is a mostly untouched natural ravine in Cedar Hills, Surrey, BC with mature trees that create a tunnel of green overhead. In the summertime the sunlight filtering through the trees is a magical sight. This is the special feeling that I fear this Surrey Engineering project will remove from our ravine.

The natural area trail runs through the forest from 125 Street and 100 Avenue to 102 Ave.  At the bottom of the ravine Robson Creek runs its way down to the Fraser River and onto the ocean. There is hope that one day salmon will be return here.

The ravine is home to owls, pileated woodpeckers, flickers, chickadees, and a myriad of other birds including a great blue heron. Squirrels, racoons and rabbits and even the odd coyote use the ravine. The filtered sunlight allows ferns and moss to grow on everything including the trees and in certain light it almost glows.

Many people in our neighborhood take daily walks on this path. Dogs, children, parents, teens in love, seniors and the exercisers all use it every day. For some it is a part of their daily life and when it changes, things will never be quite the same again. All the kids at Prince Charles Elementary have fond memories of doing the Terry Fox run every year along this shady green ravine. I have lived here and enjoyed this ravine for 20 years, but once again, I am being given one more reason I question whether I want to live in Surrey anymore.

The City of Surrey's website says this about the ravine on their website. "Today, Robson Ravine Park protects over 3.6 hectares (8.9 acres) of uniquely sensitive ecosystem. The largest portions of the Park date back to 1956, when the upper ravine was protected through neighbourhood subdivision.  Decades later, portions of the lower ravine were added through additional land dedication and purchase."  No reference is made of the upcoming upheaval.
An Open House was held on April 18, 2013, however, as with most public meetings of this sort,  there wasn't much publicity given. Prince Charles Elementary school is directly adjacent to the ravine yet no notice was given to the school. I hear certain areas got a notice in their mailboxes about the meeting, I did not.  I also notice there are no words on the above notice to show it is a Ravine and Park. I currently do not see signage or development notice signs at the entrance location of the Ravine, and no information is available online at Surrey.ca when I search for Robson Ravine, as the word ravine isn't included in the few documents there are.

I read a letter to the Editor in the Surrey Leader regarding the public meeting, and it seems to indicate that   no environmental report was available, no bird, fish, reptile or mammal count.  I learned of the concern over the project when I saw Save Robson Ravine signs posted. As I went looking for information, I found a lot of other people who were also looking for more information. I feel the City of Surrey should be doing a better job of communicating the whole scope of the project. An informational sign at the entrance to the ravine would be helpful.

When I walked through the ravine I only saw few trees with the mark of doom so far. Just recently yellow tags have added, they went up numerically as you progressed along the ravine. I've learnt that pink dots on trees are a harbinger of destruction. They have not yet marked all the trees to be taken down and say they are waiting till right before the project commences. I have heard numbers from about 50 to 65 or so mature trees will be removed. Who knows how many countless other mid sized trees.  They have stated they will replace the mature trees with new ones. This is not replacement in most of the city, only a poor substitute for the trees that were. My daughter will be a senior citizen before any new trees reach the sizes of these and she will also be able to enjoy the sunlight filtering through the trees in this magical way.

The Engineering department is in charge of this project (contact information here)  I spoke to the Engineer in charge of the project at length regarding the project and essentially, the ravine is the place where gravity allows them to run their pipes without tunnelling or extreme digging. Their cost analysis show this to be the less expensive option, however, to me each of those trees are invaluable and each tree taken down is priceless... They do not place a high value on mature trees or unspoiled nature, if they did, this would not be the least expensive route.

This project will change the mood of our Ravine and natural areas, it will change our community and neighborhood.  It was an unwise move decades ago to place this pipe here in this sensitive natural area. I feel we may be compounding the error by replacing it with a pipe that will yet again have to be replaced 75-100 years from now in a ecologically sensitive ravine, which will then have 75 year old trees.  The city of Surrey continues to allow trees and nature to be destroyed at an alarming rate in our city.  If  hundreds of trees had not already been removed from my neighborhood I may have felt different about this project. I hope that someday Surrey will make the choice to preserve all of the few remaining green spaces in our neighborhood.

Please contact me through my contact form  if you are interested in preserving more of Robson Ravine's trees. 

I am meeting with Surrey Engineering and Environment on Monday and hope to gain a clearer understanding of the project. I wish that I had been able to attend the public meeting, as getting information any other way is proving to be difficult. Everyone involved in the project has ensured me they will be doing their best to preserve as much of Robson Ravine as possible. They say the creek and trees on the western side of the creek will be preserved. They say they will be making every effort to ensure as many trees remain as possible.

I personally feel a need to tell everyone I see to visit the Ravine before it changes. I am also photographing it as much as possible, to honor its current appearance and history we have all become so familiar with.. I am interested in seeing other people's photographs of the Ravine. Please stay tuned for updates.