How We Began:
The "Save Our Sunnyside" Campaign
For years the area we now know as Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest Park was classified by the City as “undesignated,” pending a decision on development. Suggestions for use included an airport, underground gas storage, golf courses, a town centre, but none materialized.
The Campaign Begins
In 1986, Mayor Don Ross and Council convened a public meeting to discuss the future of the Forest.
A small number of local residents, quite independently of one another, felt that the area should be preserved intact as it was the only remaining sizeable tract of natural second-growth forest in South Surrey, and merited preservation.
The Save Our Sunnyside (SOS) Campaign was born.
Building a Grassroots Movement
Local volunteers donated time and effort. They offered guided walks of the forest, organizing garbage clean-up days. From casinos, garage sales and memberships, SOS raised significant funds to support its campaign.
Letter Writing Campaign
The SOS campaign resulted in a sustained effort by community members who wrote letters to the local media, arguing against changes that would threaten the Forest. The SOS campaign, calling for the preservation of the woodland, quickly grew to be the prominent voice in the debate over what to do with the approximately 200 hectares.
Winning the Referendum
In 1988, the SOS campaign climaxed in a referendum attached to the municipal election. It asked a simple question: "Do you want this area to be preserved?" Residents overwhelmingly voted yes in favor of protecting the woodland area. City Council issued a formal declaration in December of that year, dedicating Sunnyside Acres as an Urban Forest Park, "to be set aside in perpetuity for its intrinsic and heritage values."
Having fullfilled its purpose, SOS disbanded and was replaced by the Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society (SAHS), an organization dedicated to preserving the forest. A management plan was developed by the City of Surrey Parks and Recreation Department in consultation with the Society that began a long and cooperative relationship which continues to this day.
What We've Accomplished
After winning the referendum in 1988, the City of Surrey adopted by-law #9800, and later #12926, that designated Sunnyside Acres as an Urban Forest, to be protected in perpetuity for its intrinsic natural values. Having completed its mission, the Save Our Sunnyside Campaign officially disbanded, and its founding members formed the Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society. The society works closely with the City of Surrey Parks, Recreation and Culture Department to ensure the ongoing protection of the Forest. We do this through our own advocacy efforts, and also through the following:
a) The Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest Advisory Committee;
b) Participation in Surrey's Natural Areas Partnership (SNAP)
c) Promotion within the community.
Working together has helped us achieve much towards the protection, enhancement and promotion of the Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest. Here are just a few of our accomplishments:
In 1993, following an initiative by the Society, the City of Surrey created a parking lot, erected a small kiosk with an interpretive map of the Acres, surfaced some trails to improve footing and minimized erosion. In addition, an obstacle free, wheelchair accessible Walley Ross trail was created, providing universal access for visitors with limited mobility to enjoy the forest.
Improved Ecological Management
In November of 2001, the City of Surrey, in partnership with the Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society, released the Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest Fire Management Plan. This plan sought to address the increasing risk of human-caused fires within the Forest, and to balance concern for human safety with the ecological needs of the Forest if and when a fire response is needed.
Improved Public Awareness
We continue fund-raising, hosting guided walks in the Forest, cleaning up green waste and garbage and publicizing the Forest. We've hosted multiple community habitat restoration events to remove invasive plants from the Forest and re-plant these areas with endemic, ecologically appropriate vegetation.
In May 2002, the City of Surrey released the Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest Access and Recreation Management Plan, which was developed with considerable input from the public, Sunnyside Acres Urban Forest Advisory Committee, and representatives from other specific user groups.
We host an annual Forest Open House in partnership with the City of Surrey and SNAP to promote public participation in and stewardship of our forest.