Activist will challenge Surrey's Hawthorne Park road project in B.C. Supreme Court

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      The City of Surrey's plan to build a road through Hawthorne Park could face a legal pothole.

      That's because former Vancouver park commissioner Roslyn Cassells has an early court date to try to obtain an injunction to halt the project.

      The local activist will present her arguments in New Westminster Supreme Court on Monday (January 8).

      She filed her petition for judicial review of Surrey council's plan in late December.

      Hawthorne Park is between Guildford and Whalley and includes a 2.6-kilometre nature trail walk.

      Cassells claims that the City of Surrey's environmental plan neglected to mention the possiblity of the Pacific water shrew living in the park. The creature has a limited range of habitat in the Fraser Valley and is listed as endangered under the Species at Risk Act.

      "The shrew is currently in breeding season with babies coming in March, nests often found in rotting logs and other vegetation the City wants to clear for the road project," Cassells wrote in a news release. "The Recovery Plan, as well as provincial Best Management Practices call for a minimum 100 metre setback of any riparian areas and riparian terrestrial habitat. As Hawthorne Park is bounded and criss-crossed with water features such as streams, creeks, ditches, transitional bog areas, flood plains, ponds, and lakes it would be almost entirely exempt from development if properly protected for this species."

      She also noted that the environment plan overlooked the possibility of other protected species living in the park, such as the Oregon forestsnail, screech owl, and Vancouver Island beggartick.

      Other species at risk were acknowledged to be present. According to Cassells, they included the cutthroat trout, band-tailed pigeon, barn owl, rough-legged haw, common nighthawk, northern red-legged frog, western painted turtle, and monarch butterfly.

      "In short the City is blatantly violating the Species At Risk Act, the provincial Wildlife Act, the Develop with Care 2014: Environmental Guidelines for Urban and Rural Land Development in BC (BC Ministry of Environment 2014b), Best Management Practices for Amphibians and Reptiles in Urban and Rural Environments in BC (Covask et al. 2004), the Small Wetland and Amphibian Assessment Field Card (Wind and Beese 2008), the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the various provincial Recovery/Management plans for the above-mentioned species, and any legislation pertaining to the protection of species and ecological communities living or using Hawthorne Park and surrounds," Cassells alleged.

      None of her claims have been proven in court. 

      The Pacific water shrew is typically found near streams in the Fraser Valley.
      SFU geography

      On November 6, Surrey council approved the 105 Avenue Connector and Hawthorne Rotary Park Improvements Project.

      The city has emphasized that it will make "short-term investments of $3 million in amenity improvements, including buying two hectares of high quality, bio-diverse natural areas". This will increase the park's size by 0.4 hectare.

      This new addition to the park includes 450 trees, which will result in a net increase of 200 trees within the park's boundary. This will be supplemented with 500 "replacement trees" along the corridor boulevards and the replacement of a parking lot with green space.

      Save Hawthorne Park leader Stephen Pettigrew, on the other hand, told the Surrey Now-Leader that up to 2,000 trees could be removed for the road project. It will connect 138th Street with 150th Street.