Trees: a Strategy before a Bylaw

Yeah, I am depressingly unproductive on this blog these days. Such is the nature of the adventure I am currently on. I simply don’t have time to write when I am out knocking on doors and doing the thousand other little things one must do to run a decent campaign.

I also don’t want to write about election stuff here. There are some subtle changes to the Elections Act this go-around, and Municipal Candidates have to have those “Authorized by Financial Agent” statements on all advertising materials. The definition of advertising materials in this digital age is a little fuzzy, but one interpretation is that Blogs, Facebook, and twitter could be interpreted as such if someone thinks you are using it to plead for votes. Therefore, I have a separate Campaign Website (with a bit of a Blog there), a Campaign-only Facebook page, and a Campaign-only Twitter account, all with appropriate “Authorized by…” statements. I’ll do my campaigning over there.

That doesn’t stop me from having opinions over here, if I only had time to write about them.

One thing I do have an opinion about is the City’s Urban Forest Management Strategy. I have whinged more than once on this Blog about the lack of tree protection in our City. I am glad to see that action is being taken.

I could go on length (again) about the benefits of trees in the urban environment. instead I want to talk about the difference one tree made. A good friend of mine lives in a mid-century three-floor walk-up in Brow of the Hill. She lives in a nice south-facing third floor apartment. In the spring, The property owner decided the very healthy century-old tree on the edge of the property was a hassle, and unceremoniously had it chopped down. This decision had a huge effect on my friend’s life.

The same tree that dropped leaves on the parking lot of the building also provided shade to her small, top floor apartment. Like most buildings of the era, her home has thin insulation and poor air circulation. In the summer, it sometimes got warm, but the tree kept it tolerable. This year, without the tree, it was stifling for much of the summer. She had to make the hard decision to move, buy an air conditioner, or suffer. With her very modest income, the suffer seemed her only real option, although she is resourceful, and is hoping to get her landlord to paint the roof a reflective colour. If she knew ahead of time, she might have been able to make the case for the tree.

This is just one story, but demonstrates that trees are not just nice things to have around, they have a real effect on the livability of our community. New Westminster currently lags behind most Lower Municipalities on tree protection, and this Urban Forest Strategy aims to bring us into more of a leadership position.

Although the number of trees per square kilometre in New Westminster is pretty close to our regional neighbours, we lag behind the North American average, and even further behind the optimum level to receive all of the benefits of a healthy urban tree canopy. Unfortunately, we are still currently losing trees faster than they are replaced, and the rate of loss has not slowed even as growth of density in the City has slowed. Just in the last 10 years, there has been a 15% decline in the urban forest canopy in New Westminster. It is time for action.

What I am most excited about? The City is taking a more comprehensive approach than just slapping a Tree Bylaw in place. A Bylaw may be part of the eventual strategy, but a well-designed Bylaw needs to be supported by a larger strategy if it is going to protect your right to enjoy your residential property, not be costly to implement, and assure that our Urban Forest stops shrinking and starts growing again.

It is early times for the strategy, but there will be an open house this Wednesday at Century house in the (apropos) Arbutus Room. It is early times yet, but if you care about trees and the livability of our City, you should show up for an hour and provide your comments and support.

There are lots of nice trees nearby Century house you can hug on your way in.

Leave a Reply