What community is all about.


The Grove in Newton is one of those places that for many years, was nothing more than a place you had to pass through to get to somewhere else.

To get to the bus loop from the library or Newton Rec Centre, you went through ‘the grove’.

To get to Safeway from the bus loop, you went through ‘the grove’.

And funny enough, it wasn’t really ever a ‘place’ as much as it was something to endure at times, a haven for the lost, the disconnected, the unsavory, which in itself was a crime for the sheer beauty of the trees that make up this grove.

For years, as crime after crime after crime was committed in and around the grove and rec centre, it was my thought that the damn tree’s should just be cut down,such cover they provided to conceal and hide those intent on harming or robbing others.

And then the unthinkable happened and the spotlight was shining bright on Newton, the rec centre and the grove in a way that made dealing with the area unavoidable.

The brush was removed, the tree canopy raised, David Dalley appeared along with others and The Friends of The Grove started working their magic. 

The Newton Festival was moved out of the back alley ( we love Perry and Poonam!) and into the Rec Centre parking lot and The Friends of The Grove hosted fun and fantasy in the shade of the mighty trees.

There have been hammocks where friendships were forged, drums, music, hope. Tables painted and chairs for relaxing. For a while, there was a public piano that made sweet beautiful music played by strangers and sometimes people would dance… forgetting the place and time and just lived for a moment in the sound of laughter.

And as with all things where people are creating something new, and good, and CHANGE is happening, there are setbacks, and push-backs. Chairs were broken,and were fixed. The piano suffered an untimely incident but was soon replaced. A group of drunks harassed women and have been, it seems, stopped.

But The Friends of The Grove persevered, looking for solutions instead of condemnation. Dreamcatchers hung from the limbs of the trees caught not nightmares but the forsaken hopes and dreams of those whose lives took turns for the worse.

It was, in an imperfect way, perfect for how much humanity this one stand of trees has become the symbol for everything wrong, and everything right, about Newton. It has been an exercise in place making, at it’s worst and best.

Yet something always seemed to be missing though, in late evenings commuting back from Vancouver, or work though the Newton bus loop area. The grove was dark, unwelcoming under cover of darkness.

Many people worked to change that, and today The Friends of the Grove hosted their Tree Lighting ceremony as strings of lights that have been strategically strung between and around the trees were to be officially blessed and welcomed.

I was honoured to be able to take part in an intimate gathering of Newtons unsung heroes today. Blessings, prayers, poetry and quotes were offered and heard. Drums were played, hugs and tears were shared and maybe it was just me… but it seemed as though when the lights were lit, a weight lifted and the area felt lighter not just in illumination… but in spirit.

David Dalley and friends inspire me more than words can say. For those of us who concentrate on the politics, the corruption, the less than inspiring, people like David are like water after walking through a desert. When I thought the solution was to cut the tree’s down, David showed me the solution was in fact, to be found in the tree’s themselves.

There will be no more darkness in this space.

“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.”

― Wendell Berry

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11 thoughts on “What community is all about.

  1. Taking back this area of Newton is a great step forward. With the “Monster” Houses (not Homes) being built in the City and the loss of all the greenery in paved yards any trees preserved in Surrey are needed. It’s to bad it took such tragic events to save a Grove. Was there no crime problem in Surrey before these occuranses in Newton? Diane Watts and all incumbent council members (including the “big three” mayoral candidates ) did nothing to prevent the deaths by increasing the number of Police officers in Surrey and now they say crime is the No.1 issue in this election but the RCMP cannot fill the vacancies for about 2 years due to training. To bad the number of officers wasn’t increased yearly as the Population grew. something only the incumbents can answer.


    1. beautifully said Laila. we need more small communities in surrey where people get to know each other and look out for each other.


  2. Good post. With lights, a place will be much safer and encourage people to walk at night. The more people travelling through or enjoying the evening, the less crime.

    Ah, the politicians and their desire to not raise taxes so they can be re-elected.

    The reason the number of police did not increase as the population did, was because the population wasn’t going to vote for politicians who raised taxes and politicians wanted to be re-elected.
    No politicians was going to come out and say, your taxes are going up $200 this year because we need more cops. Our crime rate is going up, we need housing and services for people living on the margins.
    No, no one wants to talk about it or pay for it and then every one is surprised when there are murders. Well like I say, you voted for them and you can learn to live with it or die because of it.
    With a new election coming up, people will once again have to make a decision. What is more important, keeping your property taxes low or reducing the crime rate and things like murder?


    1. I Voted for an Independent who offered solutions .Sad that the current council feel lower taxes and votes were worth these lives. Might I suggest people view the Mayoral Candidate debate and see who suggested Pensioners,rent-a-cops,Commissionaires or even police walking the beat ( what is it 1940 ) as possible solutions for their lack of foresight. Vote but please be informed!


  3. I Love this! What I see in the friends of the Grove and others who rally around Newton, Is a Community who has their focus on SOLUTION rather than wallowing in the Problem. They do their best to tackle these issues in their neighbourhood as best they can themselves (when they see no help fm elsewhere). Not much of that around anymore. I am SO Impressed. I think this blog is a great honor to the work done in the grove. Wouldn’t it be nice to have it (blog) – or portions of it up as a plaque or something for people to read and see what the COMMUNITY has done – and why? Maybe others would join in and take some ownership in maintaining it.. xo What a great example Newton, Friends of the Grove is. Thanks Laila for bringing it to ‘light’


  4. Hey, now that’s a feel-good story!

    Older cultures have condemned such thickets near villages and towns for the n’ere-do-wells they might conceal. Conversely, many a neighbour ’round here has lamented the gradual loss of privacy as the branches and foliage of thinning trees around their little openings prune themselves up naturally; “We can see clear out to the road, now [ and passersby can now see clear in ].” Usually these are city people, retired or transplanted to dense green privacy they’d sought out fifteen or twenty years ago; now they struggle to re-establish the peaceful privacy they’ve become accustom to, which, even where possible (or affordable), is lamentably slow under the deep shade of a superior canopy, especially for retirees, who tend to get all in a hurry at this point in their lives. The whole business is triple-y lamentable because they’re naturally loath to cut down their hedgerows-cum-boulevard specimens grown so familiar over the years. Yet, by zeroing the succession to full sunshine, a new, plenty thick privet could be had in as little as five years. I guess it depends on one’s perspective and point of view whether that’s too long, too short, or both.

    Farms out here are smaller than where I grew up, but, unless it’s a “tree farm” (a frequently misused and abused term), trees, at least big forest ones, are usually kept far back from a plain, solid house surrounded by a prim yard and large, neatly trimmed lawn. Woodlots are for firewood, fencing and, fairly common on the Coast where there’s often a mobile sawmill in the barn, lumber—hardly ever for privacy; farmers like to see clear out to the road, to see who’s passing by, or if the mailbox flag is up, or if any of the thousands of stark naked fenceposts need replacing (and they do last much longer out in the sunshine), or to get the drop on a stray dog. Farmers are the same everywhere in that regard. And they roll their eyeballs at the attitudes of transplanted city-folks’ attitudes toward trees.

    Trees don’t have attitudes, although they’re probably “happier” amongst the brush and foliage that the Newton neighbours are happy to be rid of; no worries—they can probably get enough nutrient from litter-fall (leaf-litter, that is), if it’s not too rigorously raked up. And if any little shade tolerant tree species like hemlock, cedar or balsam happen to pop up, it’d probably be a good idea to leave a few of them grow. You never know: a retired farmer might buy the lot next door.

    Thanks for the article and the pics, Laila; made my day.


  5. Those improvement look great.
    I’m just surprised some form of city beaurocracy( Parks Board?) didnt threaten them with fines or imprisonment for their volunteerism as per the “pop up” food kitchen
    Nothing like stepping on a city depts’, “turf” to raise their level of rightous indignation to protect what’s “theirs”
    A classic line in the linked article “Projects like Friends of the Grove are powered by people, and don’t get government funding.”
    THAT says it all……People power without legions of govt workers endlessly pushing paper back and forth all while drawing obscene salaries.
    Im sure a few politicians are kicking themselves at the missed opportunity of the “opening” of the Grove.
    Is there anyway Fraser Health can shut down those trees? For the good of the residents? Branches could fall, bugs could bite, tree roots can trip……….the horror.


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