05/27/2015 01:28 EDT | Updated 05/27/2016 05:59 EDT

Surrey to cut down hundreds of trees to make way for LRT

The City of Surrey plans on removing hundreds of trees from Green Timbers Urban Forest to clear the way for a proposed light rail transit line that will run along Fraser Highway.

A report that went to council this week outlines the city's plan to widen Fraser Highway between King George Boulevard and 148 Street.

The project will make room for two additional lanes of traffic, an LRT line, a bike path, a sidewalk and drainage ditches.

"Right now there is no shoulder to walk on and cycle, there is no sidewalk in the area and we have no light rail," said Surrey's parks manager Owen Croy. 

"When this goes ahead, there will be environmental and health benefits from the actual transportation improvements and we will see no net impact on the actual forest."

In the 1980s, Surrey voters decided in a referendum to declare Green Timbers a protected urban forest.

However, the city made sure planners would eventually be allowed to widen Fraser Highway.

"They left some very wide road allowances, so even though they may have some trees on them, they're not part of the dedicated urban forest," Croy said.

Road widening 'unnecessary '

Green Timbers was clear cut nearly a century ago and a replanting effort started in the 1930s.

"Green Timbers is unique," said Jim Foulkes with the Green Timbers Heritage Society.

"I compare it to Stanley Park in Vancouver, Central Park in New York and Central Park in Burnaby. You couldn't convince any of these large cities to give up their parks, so why should we give up our park?"

Foulkes said he isn't opposed to an LRT line on Fraser Highway, but he doesn't understand why the city needs to add an additional two lanes of traffic.

"If you create rapid transit, people can park their cars and use it," Foulkes said. "You don't need four lanes anymore."

The society will meet in the coming weeks to discuss what it can do to save the trees.