“Surrey Bend Regional Park is one of the largest and most ecologically significant areas within the Lower Mainland”(Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010). The park is situated on an undiked section of the Fraser River floodplain and includes a wide range of ecosystem types providing a space for wildlife diversity and habitats. The initial condition of the park required renewal and rehabilitation in multiple regions due to the abandonment of industrial sites and the degrading of the river banks. Although each region required different designs or strategic approaches to solve the issue in question, each project led the park towards its overall goal of enhancing and protecting natural areas while also expanding the opportunities for economic and social development within the park, each playing an integral part in sustainable urbanism (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
The Surrey Bend Habitat Enhancement project led by Matcon Civil, focuses on repairing a meandering-channel of the Fraser River through excavation and berm earthworks. This construction was used to create a tidal channel which provides riparian and tidal slough habitat. The final channel provides 2km of habitat for salmon and other fish species to support local fisheries, and enhance recreation on the site (Matcon Civil, n.d.).
The second project involves a 10 hectare site within the Surrey Bend Regional Park (Space2place, n.d.). The site was previously a bog filled for a proposed industrial site and later abandoned, creating a heavily disturbed and separated site from the adjacent vegetation and habitats. Space2place design includes the incorporation of park infrastructure and trails while also reinforcing and expanding the wetlands and riparian forest to restore the condition of the surrounding bog landscape. The design also focuses on accommodating the annual flooding through careful placement of the new park facilities to provide year-round use for visitors (Space2place, n.d.).
Both Metro Vancouver and the City of Surrey have allocated funds towards the initial stages of the management plan. For future phases and projects, Metro Vancouver partnered with Pacific Parklands Foundation to raise the potential funds (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
Surrey Bend Regional Park is a large, environmentally significant and sensitive area within the Lower Mainland in the northeast corner of Surrey. The park’s site is 348 hectares situated within the remaining undiked floodplain of the Fraser River, running along the river’s broad arch. The annual flood of the space provides the park with a rich diversity of wetland ecosystem types and hydrologic processes such as tidal cycles, and seasonal high-water levels. The park is bounded by the Canadian National Railway in the west, and the Fraser River to the north and east and 104th Avenue to the South. The park is adjacent to the Fraser Heights neighbourhood, however, the Canadian National Railway line which was established in 1891, isolates the park from this residential area along with other natural areas (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
Throughout the park the elevation does not exceed 5 meters above sea level, leading to many areas of the park subject to periodic flooding from the Fraser River’s fluctuating water levels. In the spring, interior and mountainous areas of British Columbia create an increased flow on the Fraser River due to snow melt. This water increase is known as a freshet and can intensify the annual flood in Surrey Bend, causing the entire area to flood in extreme cases (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
The park includes four different wetland types that require tidal flowers or seasonal flooding such as shallow water, tidal freshwater marsh, floodplain marsh, and wet meadow. Other transitional habitats such as sparsely vegetated habitat, shrub thickets, bog, and riparian forest provide habitats for a wide range of species. These habitats not only significant for wildlife, but also are also important for nearby communities and many fisheries who rely on the diversity of the space for their food supply and local economy (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
Surrey Bend also contains the third largest intact bog in Lower Mainland located near the centre of the park. The bog is characterized by an abundance of moss and woody vegetation. However, in 1980 a 10 hectare portion of the bog was filled for a proposed industrial site. This site was later abandoned which resulted in the degradation of the surrounding vegetation due to low nutrients, compaction and separation within the bog (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
The park’s previous state provided public use only in the central and eastern portions of the space, however, this use was informal and unmanaged. The amount of visitors ranged from 3000 to 5000 annually (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010
PROJECT BACKGROUND AND HISTORY
Surrey Bend is a part of protected parks along the Fraser River. In 1995, Metro Vancouver and the city of Surrey began to acquire the land to create the 348 hectare regional park and place it in a Public Park Reserve. The site’s history within human interactions goes as far back as 1891 when the CN rail line was constructed. The construction of the rail line led to major disruption of the parks’ drainage and hydrology. In the 1930s, a drainage ditch was constructed to aid the drainage to the Fraser River along the Pacific Trail, later named 104th Avenue. In the early 1980s The Maple Ridge Forcemain was construction through the centre of the park along with other industrial development resulting in a portion of the bog being filled. The industrial sites were eventually abandoned leading the site to degrade and become dense with low nutrients. Although there are a few projects in the past to aid the site’s hydrology and drainage such as the CN constructed culverts, many of the interactions with the park, until recently, created ecological issues making the space require restoration to function properly (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
GOAL OF THE PROJECT
The goal of rehabilitating and renewing Surrey Bend Regional Park was to create a space that celebrates the River and the complex wetland ecosystems that bring diversity and wildlife throughout the site. The park creates an opportunity for residents and visitors to experience and understand the park’s historic floodplain landscape. The project prioritizes the three pillars of sustainability, social, environmental, and economic. Additionally, the master plan of the park had multiple objectives for further direction and visioning of the future space:
1. Enhance and protect sensitive ecosystems and habitats for wildlife and vegetation
2. Enhance biodiversity
3. Enhance the public realm
4. Protect natural resources while accommodating visitors
5. Provide outdoor recreation and education programming
6. Foster stewardship, wellnewss, and sustainable living values
7. Expand opportunities to meet the needs of people of varying ages and multi cultural origins
(Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
DESIGN, DEVELOPMENT, AND DECISION MAKING PROCESS
The renewal of the Surrey Bend Regional Park began with the Park Management Plan. This plan focused on developing the park use and development while maintaining and renewing the ecological functions of the landscape. The key to successful implementation of the park management plan with emphasis on public access was to directly address the constraints of trails, program placement and construction caused by habitats and other ecological processes. This resulted in a plan that integrates the human use of Surrey Bend Regional Park with the protection and conservation of its natural habitats and hydrology. The plan ensured the following for future developments of the park:
1. Classify the majority of the park as a Conservation Zone to promote and protect the most sensitive areas and habitats within the park.
2. Retain the bog and wetland habitats in undisturbed and undeveloped states.
3. Protect the hydrological process to ensure no alteration or distribution on site by construction of dykes or drainage structures unless required for conservation purposes.
4. Place the most intensive infrastructure developments within the least sensitive landscape elements; the fill area.
5. Minimize fragmentation of ecosystems through careful placement of trail systems
6. Replace or improve habitat where unavoidable damage is a result of park development
7. Protect species of concern
8. Plan, design, and construct the park with caution to manage concerns within hydrologic functions and ecosystems
9. Implementation of adaptive management strategies
10. Continuous research and monitoring of site to facilitate protection and management of the park.
(Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
The development of Surrey Bend through multiple design and construction firms such as Space2Place and Matcon Civil included using the management plan as a framework for proposed projects.
In 2014, Matcon Civil focused on habitat enhancement to create a more diverse habitat for both fish and other wildlife. The project involved the construction of 3.5km of a large meandering-channel and berms functioning as a habitat for salmon. The project included clearing the land, peat excavation, and building-up earthworks. The final construction resulted in 2.2km of tidal channels which provide 20,000 square meters of tidal slough habitat as well as 60,000 square meters of riparian habitat (Matcon Civil, n.d.).
In 2015, Space2Place began working on the park’s infrastructure to allow for more public access within the space. The fill area was first renewed through on-site soil mixing to amend the material and therefore allow the space to revegetate. The design then focused on implementing trails, pavilions and low maintenance lawn areas for groups to gather to experience and enjoy the park. The final element was to create new views in and out of the park through the site’s existing topography, providing windows within the vegetation for visitors to look through and see various wetland habitats as well as the Fraser River (Space2place, n.d
Metro Vancouver, & City of Surrey. (2010). Surrey Bend Regional Park Management Plan(Rep.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/parks/ParksPublications/SurreyBendManagementPlan2010-09-01.pdf
Surrey Bend Regional Park. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://www.csla-aapc.ca/awards-atlas/surrey-bend-regional-park
Surrey Bend Regional Park. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from http://www.space2place.ca/surrey-bend-regional-park
Surrey Bend Regional Park Habitat Rehabilitation. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2019, from http://www.matconcivil.com/project-showcase/parks-and-recreation-projects/surrey-bend-regional-park-habitat-rehabilitation/
The majority of the park is classified as Conservation Zone, due to the park’s sensitive ecosystems and habitats. However, a small portion of the park is open to the public and includes multiple program elements such as pavilions to provide sheltered spaces for group gatherings and passive recreation. Additionally natural play and interpretive elements were integrated to engage visitors while also providing visual landmarks throughout the space (Space2place, n.d.). Some ecosystems such as the bog, wetlands and meadows have trails leading through providing limited access for visitors to experience the wilderness for educational and viewing purposes. A river lookout and river trail were created to further connect the Fraser River with the park. Finally, a small area was added as a designated arrival area for parking and drop-off (Space2place, n.d.).
The filling of the bog, due to a pre-park development, presented a constraint to the project due to its inhospitable growing conditions. Although the filled portion of the bog would not be able to return to its original state, on-site soil mixing was used on to amend the material to allow for some revegetation and naturalization. Along with this, there were additional challenges within the project such as dealing with park encroachments, invasive species, capacity issues, and severe weather events including major flooding (Space2place, n.d.).
GENESIS OF PROJECT
In 2008, the City of Surrey updated its ten year plan for Parks, Recreation and Culture services. This plan identified 5 directions in which the city would channel investment for the next 10 years. One of these directions included to invest in the planning and development of Surrey Bend to improve the amenities for visitors such as trails, and waterfront access, as well as protecting and preserving natural areas. In June 2010, The Surrey Bend Regional Park Management Plan was adopted by Metro Vancouver and the City of Surrey. The plan focused on long-term public use and management focusing on the promotion of recreation, education, and conservation (Metro Vancouver & City of Surrey, 2010).
The Surrey Bend Regional Park Projects were very successful. Not only did the renewal projects benefit the ecological systems, habitats, and wildlife, but it also benefits the communities nearby through introducing a space for recreation and education programs as well as the improvement of local fisheries. Space2Place won the CSLA 2018 National Award of Excellence for their renewal of the abandoned bog filled site (CSLA, n.d.), while the habitat enhancement project by Matcon Civil was given the Award of Merit, Natural Resource and habitat Category from The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies - British Columbia (Matcon Civil,n.d.). The habitat enhancement project is also significant due to its First Nations Opportunities Plan which allowed for 6 different indigenous groups to collaborate within the same project along with providing each group with training opportunities (Matcon Civil, n.d.).