Now I very much feel like we got something done.
My first year on Council has been busy, with some really important stuff, though we were at times distracted by issues that have less impact on the long-term viability of the City. I wonder, sometimes, if we are just kicking the can down the road, or are we actually getting things done? Intellectually, I know it is the latter, I recognize that we are moving so many things forward (Canada Games Pool, Front Street, OCP, whistle cessation, etc.), and just because we are not cutting ribbons every day, the work we do on them now is as important as the closing date will be.
However, it feels good to get one big box checked off in my personal to do list, and the Tree Protection Bylaw was a big one.
Of course, *I* did not do this. It was the result of a lot of great work by City staff and an excellent consultant team. Council as a whole provided direction and political support, so this is progress for the City of which my part of the team was pretty small. But just like the guy who sets the football for the place kicker, I am happy to be part of the team that did something the City will be proud of in the decades ahead.
A Tree Protection Bylaw is something I have whinged about for several years, and New West is hardly a leader in this front. The Bylaw we have adopted is, in my opinion, well developed and pragmatic, and reflects the best practices of other cities across the region.
Short version (an you should read the Bylaw, not rely on my Coles Notes version here):
•You need a permit to cut a tree down if that tree’s trunk is larger than 20cm in diameter at chest height, or if that tree is otherwise designated as “protected”.
•If the tree is hazardous or its roots are causing damage to buildings or utilities, you can remove it, as long as you can demonstrate it is problematic, get a permit to remove it, and replace it with a less-problematic tree.
•If you cut a tree down without a permit, or damage it to the point where it dies or becomes hazardous, you will get fined, and will be required to replace the tree.
There are devils in the details here (i.e. when does a hedge become a tree?) that are explained in the Bylaw, and you can contact the City to get those details if need be. Lots of information is available here.
The other aspects of the Urban Forest Strategy we adopted on Monday are just as important as the Tree Bylaw. The City is making a commitment to increase the tree canopy over the City from 18% to 27%, which is the North American Standard. To put that in context, the Queen’s Park neighbourhood has about a 33% canopy coverage, where Sapperton and Glenbrook North have about 19% overall. If we imagine every neighbourhood being as leafy as Queens Park, you have an idea how much this will change the livability of our City.
There is no doubt there will be costs to this ambitious strategy, but there are significant opportunities to offset some of those costs, and the long-term cost/benefit of a healthy Urban Forest has been proven to be positive across the country. The aspirational goal of 10,000 more trees in 10 years is going to impact everything from what types of housing we will be able to accommodate in our upcoming Official Community Plan, to how we design and protect our boulevard spaces and parks.
The implementation of this strategy will be over 20 years, which demonstrates that even with the check in the box for a big progress step, there will always be more work to do.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today”