Residents outraged over vandalism that forced the City of Surrey to cut down an established eagle tree in South Surrey last month are putting their support behind a push to have the area preserved, complete with a new eagle tree.
A petition launched this month regarding the proposed measure, and events planned in coming weeks include a talk Thursday evening led by eagle biologist David Hancock, and a Sept. 9 rally aimed at drawing even more attention to the issue.
“It’s sort of to dramatize the loss,” Bob Winston, a member of the Ocean Park Beautification Committee, said of the Sept. 9 event, set for 2 p.m.
Around 100 eagle masks are being made for the rally.
“It’s mainly a visual thing that we hope (will) trigger some interest,” Winston explained. “Get some attention to the issue.”
Dubbed an ‘eagle flocking,’ the rally is to take place at the site of the damage, which occurred July 24 on private property at the corner of Croydon Drive and 20 Avenue.
A cottonwood tree estimated to be at least 60 years old was illegally cut, to the point it was in imminent danger of falling.
Hancock was called to supervise the tree’s removal. He told Peace Arch News at that time that he had seen eagles in the nest – which he has been monitoring for the past eight years – just two days prior.
He is now driving the push to preserve the site, and is behind the petition, which so far has more than 800 signatures.
Hancock hopes the petition – in support of a “proactive mitigation proposal” by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and City of Surrey – will garner at least 20,000 signatures.
Hancock said he’d like to have a new nest installed on the site by mid-September.
“The key is to have it in before the eagles return,” Hancock said Monday.
If the site is dedicated, it would be the province’s second bald-eagle preserve, he noted. The first is underway on property also in South Surrey near 1 Avenue and 172 Street, as part of The Eagles development.
Several Peninsula-based environmental organizations are among 19 national, provincial and local groups backing the Croydon tree-replacement efforts. They include White Rock & Surrey Naturalists, Friends of Semiahmoo Bay Society, Langley Field Naturalists, BC Great Blue Heron Society, Semiahmoo Fish & Game Club and the Ocean Park Beautification Committee.
Winston and fellow OPBC member Karen Kilbride spent part of Friday making masks for the rally.
Kilbride said “we’re all doing our bit” after Hancock reached out to the committee for help spreading the word about getting the nest replaced.
“People are very angry this happened,” she said. “It touched a chord.”
Winston said penalties for such offences “don’t have an impact.”
But Hancock said provisions under the Wildlife Act allow for both “creative” and “extra” fines up to the monetary value of whatever was gained financially through the offence, which he said “might be millions.”
The remedy was an incentive for the developer that offered the bald eagle preserve on 1 Avenue, he noted.
“They could see that this creative sentencing could be invoked if they cut down the tree,” he said. “At Croydon, we’re going to – I hope – force a second one.”
Rémi Dubé, acting manager of the City of Surrey’s building division, said there’s “no question” the Croydon tree has to be replaced, as per the city’s tree-protection bylaw, and the city is willing to work with the owner and province to facilitate that, he said.
However, “(the city is) not dealing with the nest in any way.”
The applicant “hasn’t approached us yet with any kind of firm plan,” Dubé added, regarding the tree replacement.
“Time is ticking a little bit. The environmental groups would like this up… in the fall, before the migration starts again.”
An application – submitted by Joe Dhaliwal, according to City of Surrey online documents – to build a mixed retail and office commercial centre on the property received third reading in October 2012. Dubé said it has “been kind of on a holding pattern since July 2017.”
He noted the applicant’s environmental consultant is looking at “opportunities” for the property.
Dhaliwal did not respond to PAN’s request for comment.
Thursday’s meeting featuring Hancock is to take place at the Ocean Park Community Hall, 1577 128 St., where he is to speak about the July 24 incident and discuss mitigation efforts.
The meeting is to get underway at 7:30 p.m.