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Surrey Surprises
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Surrey Surprises
  Vancouver Travel Tale

By Lorry Patton
Having lived on its fringes for years, I knew the City of Surrey had grown from a simple rural district with a few isolated communities to a self-contained metropolis with distinct neighborhoods and sophisticated shopping malls. However, I had no idea just how much Surrey had to offer a visitor until one day this summer when I explored it through a tourist's eyes.
Surrey, located on the lower mainland of British Columbia, sprawls across 126 square miles, so its six townships: Whalley, Newton, Guildford, Fleetwood, Cloverdale and South Surrey, have plenty of green space between them. In fact, nicknamed "The City of Parks," Surrey boasts of three thousand acres of park land. These include Crescent Park: with its bridal trails and duck ponds; Semiahmoo Trail: an old wagon route settlers used to travel between Canada and the United States; Serpentine Fen: a haven for ducks, geese and other waterfowl complete with viewing towers; Elgin Heritage Park: the site of a 1948 farmhouse, weaving demonstrations, marina, kayak rentals and dyke trails; Crescent Beach where beachcombers examine marine life in tidal pools, bird watchers study more than 200 species of birds and sun worshipers relax beneath colorful sun umbrellas, and Bear Creek Park: a popular park for sport day events, walks in the woods, garden strolls and a train adventure.

surrey_train_450.jpg My first stop was the train station at Bear Creek Park. Here I boarded a covered rail car pulled by an authentic miniature locomotive for an 8-minute ride through a fairy tale forest. Built in Holland in the late 1960's, the engine named "Chough" arrived in Canada in 1996 and went into service at the park in 1998. Being a kid at heart, I was just as curious as the children when the engineer stopped half way round and gave us a lesson on how an old-fashioned steam engine works.
Adjacent to Bear Creek Park sits the recently renovated Surrey Art Centre. This impressive atrium-style building offers workshops, changing art exhibits, an art rental program, a gift shop and two live theaters: the 402-seat Main Stage and the adaptable Studio Theatre. ( Dial M for Murder is scheduled for October 10 through 26 and Dames at Sea February 27 - March 15. ) The day of my visit the staff was busily preparing for the annual BC Festival of Arts. The Surrey Art Centre is only one of a variety of locations in the city where close to a thousand participants show off their talents in the world of performing arts.

barnston_picnic_tables_240.jpg Bear Creek Park is a popular site for family picnics, however, one of the most unique picnic sites in Surrey is found on Barnston Island. Less than three square miles in size, modern development has literally ignored Barnston Island. One reason, of course, is that it's accessible only by a five-minute barge ride across the Fraser River. Mostly made up of hay fields, small herds of grazing cattle, vegetable gardens and private homes, a small portion of the island has been set aside for public use. This serene setting faces the river and the mountains beyond, with picnic tables and spots to relax and reflect. A picnic lunch here is truly a step back in time. (The barge, located at the north end 176 street runs continually.)
Since good growing soil is abundant in Surrey, about a third of the city is designated agricultural. Many farmers market their own produce blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, corn, cabbage, potatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, pumpkins. A favorite activity is picking your own berries and I can personally attest that until you've tasted strawberries straight of the plant, you haven't really tasted strawberries. If you would rather leave the picking to others, roadside berry stands and vegetable markets decorate most major highways in Surrey. Honey farms, organic vegetables farms, flower nurseries, herb farms, Christmas tree farms and corn farms are also scattered throughout the city. You can stop at the visitor center at the corner of 152nd Street and 102A Avenue for a map and directions.
Some farmers have decided to hitch their wagons to tourism, such as the Cloverdale Produce Farm Market Jungle Maze on 148th Street. Tour busses lined the parking lots when I arrived and judging from the smiles on the faces of young and old, every one was having fun, especially those trying to find their way out of corridors cut through eight foot stalks of corn. Visitors who didn't want to get lost in the corn puzzle watched gleefully from a viewing platform. The Jungle Maze also features barbecues, hoe downs, hayrides, and a petting zoo. It was hard to tell who was having more fun or who was chasing whom. The penned area was a collection of children, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens and llamas. Watching their antics, I had to grin.
Actually, I smiled and laughed a lot that summer day and any destination that puts a smile on my face is a good place to visit.
Surrey, British Columbia is bordered east by Langley, south by Washington State, USA (with two border crossings), Fraser River lies north and the municipality of Delta lies west.
Special events of interest to visitors vary from the Mayfair celebrations at Softball City in South Surrey, to the PGA Air Canada Championships in August (held at the Northview Golf & Country Club, one of 15 golf courses in Surrey), to the second largest rodeo in Canada, the famous Cloverdale Rodeo. Begun in 1945 and held annually on the Victoria Day weekend in May, the Cloverdale Rodeo includes exhibits, parades, midway rides and live entertainment.

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