A tree faller work to fell a Douglas fir in the 15200-block of Victoria Avenue Friday.

A tree faller work to fell a Douglas fir in the 15200-block of Victoria Avenue Friday.

‘Eagle-tree’ controversy nudges White Rock

The loss of the mature Douglas firs from the Victoria Avenue hillside has spurred a city commitment to make changes.

White Rock officials may not have been able to save four city trees, but the loss of the mature Douglas firs from the Victoria Avenue hillside last week has spurred a commitment to make changes going forward.

City manager Dan Bottrill said Tuesday that while he doesn’t believe there was anything that could have been done differently to change the outcome, the issue has drawn attention to the need for a tree-management plan for the city.

“I think there’s probably a deeper appreciation for the trees that we have in White Rock, and probably an understanding that we need to take a look at a tree-management plan… in terms of what trees do we have, how can we enhance that and look after our current inventory of trees,” Bottrill told Peace Arch News.

Friday, four Douglas firs on city land in the 15200-block of Victoria Avenue were toppled after the owner of an adjacent lot advised he would be cutting significant roots that extended into his lot.  The damage would have made the trees a safety hazard, city officials explained prior to the cuts.

While the trees were known to be used by eagles that frequent others along Marine Drive, provincial legislation could not protect them unless they had a nest.

Bottrill said a citywide tree bylaw – which is to be discussed at Monday’s council meeting, following a May 13 motion by Coun. Helen Fathers – would also not have saved the firs.

Fathers said she wonders if council, with more time, could have authorized purchasing the adjacent lot for city use, as a previous council did with land adjacent to Dr. R.J. Allan Hogg Rotary Park.

Bottrill said the option was likely not available in this case.

“It does beg the question, should the city be taking a look at other properties when they become available, adjacent to linear walkways, for example?” he said.

A review of such walkways, along with a concept plan regarding their management, is part of city plans for 2013, Bottrill noted. It will include having conversations with hillside property owners who have encroached on such city lands – some significantly.

Sandy McNamee – whose May 13 appeal to council to save the Victoria Avenue trees spurred the eleventh-hour efforts – said she is hopeful steps will be taken to “try to replenish what was lost.”

She does believe the situation increased the community’s awareness of the importance of such trees, and that city officials did everything they could.

She is hopeful it will lead to a significant-tree registry or similar policy.

“I think… people kind of sat up and took notice,” she said. “I think there’s still conversations that will happen.”