Group rallies to keep Burnaby heritage forest on track

Click to play video 'Burnaby residents plea to save the Interurban Forest' Burnaby residents plea to save the Interurban Forest
WATCH: Residents of Burnaby are fighting against potential new development, that they say would threaten part of Metro Vancouver's heritage. Their battle is over 45 hectares of urban forest that contains the only remnants of a rail line dating back to the turn of the twentieth century. John Hua reports.

Mother Nature reclaimed the Old Interurban forest in Burnaby decades ago – and a group of concerned residents would like it to stay that way.

“It’s a sanctuary,” said Carol Chrisjohn of the Old Interurban Forest Preservation Society. “The thought of having houses and yards here…would be a shame.”

The 80 hectares of forest is on the Burnaby Lake line of the Interurban streetcar, which used to connect the city to New Westminster and Vancouver. More than half the space has been marked for possible residential development by the City of Burnaby since the mid-1980s. The society wants the entire forest protected and declared a park.

“Sometime in the future this forest will be on the table for development,” said Graham Passier-Chadwick, also a society member.

Passier-Chadwick says when the group first organized in September 2015, the City of Burnaby told them they had no intention of making the change to their master development plan.

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People who use the trail know of its historical significance. They say to see the second-growth forest torn down again would be tragic.

“Few people know about this trail is. People just think it’s a trail through the bush. If you read the history on it… it used to be a really busy area,” said Kevin Penner, a geocacher searching the area.

“It’s fun to come out and play in the woods,” said parent Sharon Farquharson, who brought her children along for a nature walk. “There’s nothing left if you keep tearing down and building up.”

The society says it is hoping to continue to raise awareness and “start a conversation” with the City of Burnaby.