The area adjacent to the Newton Rec Centre — a location known for a number of violent incidents in recent months – is seeing some new life.

A group of locals, community activists, and artists are bringing chess games, quirky art, and people to take back an area most people hurry through or avoid all together.

“This area has a lot of scars,” said David Dalley who lives two blocks away and helped organize the event. “There was the murder of Julie Paskall, which took place just over that way – and there are a lot of really negative things that happened in the area.”

With towering cedars providing a natural canopy away from the urban landscape, the group wants to focus on the grove’s beauty rather than creepiness.

“We’re bringing some creativity into the space, a little bit of liveliness, certainly some playfulness and just giving people an opportunity and excuse for people to talk to each other. And I think people want to talk to each other,” said Dalley.

The initiative is inspired by the idea of place making, building character and life. The grove was a good place to start where the community has experienced a collective yearning to do something about the area, according to Dalley.

“I don’t think bad things happen in a community because of the strength of bad people. I think it happens because of the silence of good people,” he said.

"I think it really speaks to how much pride people have in the community of Newton,” said Surrey City Councillor Barinder Rasode who attended the event. “I think the grove demonstrates that saving the trees and not cutting them down in response to crime reductions, it's actually a really great public gathering place."

For the city’s part, Coun. Rasode said the focus is on improving the lighting and making sure sight lines are clear for people passing through the area on foot.

The potential candidate for mayor in November’s civic elections also said the city needs to do more to improve public safety in the area.

"We need more officers right away and those officers need to be on bike and foot patrols and I think we need to make more investment in the area of public safety and we need to find the money wherever that comes from," she said.

Rasode left outgoing Mayor Dianne Watts’ Surrey First political party over Watts’ approach to violent crime in Surrey.

But outside of the political realm, neighbours walking through are pleased with the new life springing up in the underused stand of trees.

“It’s wonderful in so many ways,” said a woman named Lily who grew up in Surrey. “It makes me think of when I was a girl and we had woods to play in.”

“Things like this help the neighbourhood take the park back, take the location back, and give the neighbourhood a positive feel again. And I think that’s important,” said another neighbor named Leanne.