City sets ‘ambitious’ target to increase tree cover in community

The city is working towards what it considers an “ambitious” target to increase the amount of trees within the city limits

The city is working towards what it considers an “ambitious” target to increase the amount of trees within the city limits.

That goal is one of the main sticking points within the city’s new Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP) which has been in development since 2011.

City Planner Chris Osborne said the plan, which has a 20-year time frame, highlights the importance of retaining tree canopy coverage.

“The UFMP seeks to increase the percentage of tree cover within Campbell River from its current level of 33 per cent, plus or minus two per cent, to 40 per cent (the Pacific Northwest bench march) by 2035,” Osborne said in a report to city council. “This is an ambitious target since ongoing development generally serves to decrease, rather than increase, tree cover as sites are cleared.”

Osborne said having tree canopy cover over the city’s urban areas has many benefits including providing shade, habitat for birds and insects, increasing property values on tree-lined streets, enhancing the ambience downtown and in residential neighbourhoods, and absorbing pollution.

Tree cover also slows stormwater runoff, absorbs carbon and provides for a robust habitat.

But Osborne said if the city keeps on with the status quo, tree cover within the city’s urban areas is expected to decrease.

“With no interventions as identified within the UFMP, the ‘do-nothing’ scenario predicts that tree cover will diminish to 20 per cent by 2035,” Osborne said. “This assessment is based on the amount of undeveloped, canopied land potentially available for development over this period.”

The city has come up with 53 different actions within the urban forest plan to help increase tree cover.

They range from developing a tree care program to managing the urban forest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to engaging and partnering with the community to build ownership of the urban forest.

To help finance the plan, staff have come up with four different options – a parcel tax, contributions towards a ‘green fund’, an adopt a tree program, and grants.

Osborne said funding is expected to be addressed in a final report that will be reviewed by the city’s Advisory Planning and Environment Commission as well as the Community Services Recreation and Culture Commission.

Diamond Head Consulting, which has been hired by the city to develop the urban forest plan, is expected to come back to city council with a final report this fall.

The city began preparation of the plan in 2011 after it successfully applied for funding to the Real Estate Foundation in 2010.

Development of the plan included public consultation through two open houses last fall as well as an online survey with input from approximately 200 members of the public.

The city also partnered with Greenways Land Trust on the first phase of plan development and has continued to engage with Greenways throughout the process.