Community advocates in Surrey’s Newton neighbourhood organized a fun-filled day in a forested area called the “Grove” where people brought food, played music, and even decorated trees.
But the message behind the fun and games is serious.
Locals want to take back their neighbourhood in a positive and creative way in an effort to make Newton a safer and happier place to live. They started with a public space that has been in the spotlight lately for violence and crime.
The “Grove” in Surrey is just steps away from where hockey mom Julie Paskall was brutally murdered last December after waiting to pick up her son from hockey practice at the Newton recreation centre.
“This area around Newton, it’s got some scars. There’s been some things happen nearby that have been hurtful, that have lowered the levels of trust in this community,” said David Dalley, a community advocate.
Paskall’s murder made residents fearful of enjoying their community, especially at night. Doug Elford of the Newton Community Association hopes Saturday’s events will strengthen the bond between residents and help them have fun again.
“This is a whole idea about getting people together, meeting people in our community, talking, trying to improve things in the neighborhoud. It’s bringing people out of their houses and onto the streets, and meeting as a community. It’s a great thing.”
One of the ideas organizers had was to place eyeballs on trees to remind people that community members have their eyes watching over and protecting the area.
Since Paskall’s murder, the City of Surrey has committed more foot and bike control in the Newton area. Police personnel are set to be increased in Surrey. Over the next two years, the city has budgeted for 24 police officers, 20 foot patrol officers and a permanent six-member bike squad team.
In the meantime, advocates are taking action by engaging residents through fun activities, transforming the community one public space at a time.
“I think it’s really important that we have places where we can get together and start to be playful with each other and build trust and become better neighbours,” said Dalley.