Campbell River couple Julie Macdonald and Terry Tuk don’t understand why a city which calls itself sustainable does not protect its old growth trees.
For more than a year, Macdonald and Tuk enjoyed the view of the towering Douglas firs on the property below their home only to see the trees cut down.
“The property directly below ours had several large, approximately 150 foot tall trees,” wrote Tuk in a letter to city council.
“The trees appear to be healthy and are used by a wide variety of birds. To our dismay, we watched…as these trees were cut down. We immediately contacted the city and were told that there are no bylaws to prevent removal of large healthy trees on private property. We find it quite alarming that the city does nothing to protect our urban forest that provides environmental, health, esthetic, and property value benefits.”
The couple, who chose to move from Victoria to retire in Campbell River because of its natural beauty, said the city lags behind when it comes to protecting its environment.
Macdonald told the Mirror that several communities on the Island enacted bylaws protecting city trees on private property in the late 1980s and the early 1990s.
“But there’s still nothing here, we’re a little bit behind,” Macdonald said. “We were pretty disturbed to see the trees aren’t protected here. I think it’s long overdue. I think the city would really benefit from not only the aesthetics, but in lowering greenhouse gas emissions. It’s nothing but a plus to save our trees.”
The city’s Sustainable Official Community Plan does designate development permit areas to protect trees that are: within 60 metres of an eagle nest tree; located on or adjacent to a slope; adjoining a stream (within 50 metres) or the ocean foreshore (within 30 metres).
Macdonald noted the city is on the right track in developing an Urban Forestry Management Plan, it’s just slow moving she said.
“When can we expect results?” she said. “There are blueprints for this bylaw so it shouldn’t be too hard.”
Terri Martin, the city’s environmental co-ordinator, said work on the plan began in July 2011 with the Urban Forest Inventory which is in its final stages.
Greenways Land Trust has taken the lead on the Urban Forestry Management Plan which is expected to lay out a strategic and cost-effective way to manage the long-term health and distribution of trees in the community.
The plan has a $40,000 budget and is being funded by the federal government’s Community Works Fund ($20,000), a $20,000 grant from the Real Estate Foundation of BC and in-kind volunteer contributions from Greenways.
The plan is expected to include public consultation, and along with results from the Urban Forest Inventory, will be used to develop options for tree protection on public and private land, as well as a tree replacement policy for tree evaluation and compensation in the event of tree loss.
As for Tuck and Macdonald, they are hopeful protection for community trees won’t be too far down the road.
“We feel that the mayor’s office and city council would want to do all they can to maintain and enhance the attractiveness of the city and we believe that the trees in the city are one of its main assets.”