Community

Taking back the ‘grove’

Anne Beaver (left), her son Austin, 4, Madison Tuck and Chris Gacsi attached messages to ‘The Poet Tree’ in The Grove recently. Friends of the Grove, a group of locals and community activist are working to bring a crime-ridden area by the Newton Recreation Centre – and where Julie Paskall was killed last December – a feeling of safety through artistic and cultural ventures among the trees.  - Boaz Joseph photos / The Leader
Anne Beaver (left), her son Austin, 4, Madison Tuck and Chris Gacsi attached messages to ‘The Poet Tree’ in The Grove recently. Friends of the Grove, a group of locals and community activist are working to bring a crime-ridden area by the Newton Recreation Centre – and where Julie Paskall was killed last December – a feeling of safety through artistic and cultural ventures among the trees.
— image credit: Boaz Joseph photos / The Leader

Once known as one of Surrey’s hot spots for drug activity and property crime, Newton’s “grove” is transforming – thanks to a community that’s decided to take it back from criminals.

The treed space beside the Newton Wave Pool, in the 13700-block of 72 Avenue, has been a favourite spot for drug dealers for years.

After hockey mom Julie Paskall was killed there last December, local residents have demanded their park back. (Josef Jomo Gopaul has since been charged in connection to her murder).

The group is acting on advice from a U.S. design guru Jason Roberts, who recommended creating an “outdoor room” where people can linger.

David Dalley, who lives just a couple of blocks away from the grove, took up the challenge.

He and a few others started “Friends of the Grove,” a grassroots group which has transformed the troubled spot into a place where people can go and feel safe.

The strategy began in April, when the group set up several activities, including a checker board and music. People were encouraged to wander in and take part.

Photo: Assisted by Ben Cohen, bagpiper Tim Baillie tries his hand with a shofar (a Jewish ceremonial ram’s horn).

Dalley and crew have been switching it up every couple of days, trying to create a public-friendly environment.

There are now outdoor lounge chairs there for people to sit if they like.

Dalley says the area is changing already.

The chairs and checker boards have been left there overnight for weeks, and they remain as they were.

Months ago, he says, you wouldn’t have seen the same level of respect for those things.

The next big event will be on June 21, to coincide with the Newton Community Festival.

And on June 26, the public is encouraged to come out with colourful costumes to dress up the cement posts in the area as people. That event will take place after 9:30 a.m. at the Newton Bus Loop, at 137 Street and 72 Avenue.

Friends of the Grove’s Facebook page can be found at: www.facebook.com/FriendsOfTheGrove

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