Alex Browne photo A stump was all that remained of a mature liquidambar (sweetgum) tree on Johnston Road Friday morning after the city gave approval for removing it and two median trees said to pose a safety hazard during construction of the PARC Retirement Homes tower.

Trees felled at Johnston Road ‘gateway’

Day before tree removal, the City of White Rock said it ‘anticipated’ receiving permit application

One of four mature boulevard trees on Johnston Road in front of the PARC Retirement Homes site has been cut down despite a last-ditch attempt last week by members of the public to save the trees.

Workers removed two median trees and one boulevard tree from the 1500-block Johnston Road Friday morning with the approval of the City of White Rock.

The tree cutting – fully completed, with all debris removal, by 9:30 a.m. – came less than 24 hours after the city issued a statement which said, at that point, it “anticipated (that PARC) will be submitting a Tree Management Permit application” for the removal of the boulevard and median trees. An updated statement – posted to the city website Friday morning – announced that PARC had “moved forward” with the removal of the trees “following receipt of the Tree Management Permit.”

Ventana Construction is currently completing excavation work at the site for the planned 23-storey development.

Sandy McNamee and others had twice taken to the streets earlier last week to protest the removal of the row of liquidambar (sweetgum) trees from the Johnston Road sidewalk. Now the fate of the other three liquidambar trees in front of the site hangs in the balance, in what the city has described as “an ongoing situation.”

In its original statement, emailed at 11 a.m. Thursday, the city said it recognized “this is an emotional situation for some residents,” adding that it is working with PARC and Ventana “with a focus on retaining as many trees as possible and achieving a safe working environment.”

In Friday’s update, the city again hewed to the emphasis on safety concerns as the reason for removing the trees.

“It was evident that equipment access from alternative locations was logistically unrealistic and that construction activity in close proximity to trees is unsafe,” the statement said, noting that planting done decades ago had contributed to “trees with poor root structure, significant soil heaving and damage to infrastructure.”

“This has caused buckling of the sidewalks, creating tripping hazards. This is especially dangerous for those most at risk, such as those with mobility constraints and those who use wheelchairs and electric scooters as transportation.”

McNamee maintains, however, that the issue of tree roots is a red herring.

“The problem is not the roots, it’s poor sidewalk maintenance,” she said. “There are places where settling has occurred; oodles of tripping hazards around town that have nothing to do with tree roots.”