Surrey, BC, incorporated as a city in 1993, population 468 251 (2011c), 394 976 (2006c). The City of Surrey is the second-largest municipality by population in British Columbia, after VANCOUVER. Part of Metro Vancouver, it is bounded by the FRASER RIVER on the north and the State of Washington on the south. The municipalities of LANGLEY and DELTA lie to the east and west.
The residential development of Surrey is spread along 3 upland areas of glacial till extending into North Delta, Langley and White Rock. Intervening lowland areas of peat and other deltaic materials are primarily agricultural, and the floodplains of the Fraser River are used for industry. One-third of the land area of the city is agricultural and is protected by a provincial land reserve.
The Kwantlen and Semiahmoo people, part of the Straits Salish (see SALISH, CENTRAL COAST) group, lived in villages along the Fraser River and Boundary Bay for more than 6000 years. Decimated by disease after the arrival of Europeans, the Kwantlen were given a small reserve in Surrey, since purchased by the city for a park; the Semiahmoo have a reserve near the international boundary. Incorporated as a district municipality in 1879, Surrey was named by an early pioneer after Surrey County in England.
Surrey grew slowly in the beginning, with lumbering and agriculture as the main industries. A double-span bridge across the Fraser (1904) provided Surrey's only access to NEW WESTMINSTER and Vancouver until the Pattullo Bridge (1937) was built. Railways and roads brought steady industrial and commercial growth, which was furthered by an influx of people from the drought-stricken Prairies in the 1930s. Political unrest led to the secession in 1957 of Ward 7, which became the municipality of WHITE ROCK.
The opening of the Port Mann Bridge (1960) and subsequent freeway development brought further growth and change. A 6-town concept emerged, with Whalley, Guildford, Newton, Fleetwood, Cloverdale and South Surrey developing around shopping malls, recreation facilities, housing, green belts, industrial lands and farms. In 1990 the province of British Columbia extended the light-rail system (Skytrain) across the Fraser River into Surrey, which now houses 4 stations. Using this as a catalyst, Surrey is endeavouring to build a new city core. Surrey is one of the fastest-growing cities in British Columbia.
Key features of the economy are manufacturing, wholesaling, agriculture and commerce (especially in Guildford Town Centre and Central City).
Surrey is home to Kwantlen University College and has a campus of SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY. With more than 400 parks, the city is known as the "City of Parks." Cloverdale, Surrey's agricultural heart, boasts harness racing and Canada's second-largest rodeo. The Historic Stewart Farm has a restored Victorian-style farmhouse depicting life at the turn of the century. The arts are centered at the Surrey Arts Centre, which houses the third-largest gallery in British Columbia and a theatre. The culture and history of Surrey are displayed at the Surrey Museum.