Resident Peter Thompson is concerned about the state of 13 heritage trees on farmland on 152 Street. The elms were designated 'heritage' in 1998.

Resident Peter Thompson is concerned about the state of 13 heritage trees on farmland on 152 Street. The elms were designated 'heritage' in 1998.

Surrey takes closer look at heritage trees

Concern expressed for health of Scotch elms designated heritage in 1998

Peter Thompson admits he is no expert when it comes to trees.

But the retired UBC science writer and Surrey parks volunteer is fiercely passionate about them nonetheless.

The 10-acre property he has called home for 40 years is an arboreal paradise of sorts, home to countless mature trees – including two oriental plane (platanus orientalis) that are on the City of Surrey’s heritage list.

He estimates the deciduous pair are 45 to 50 years old; about half the age of a cluster of nearby trees that also have heritage status, on private property across the street from his.

Thompson said as a tree lover, he is concerned about the health of the 13, which are identified as Scotch elm on a heritage plaque that fronts 152 Street.

Dedicated in 1998, the 13 are “absolutely magnificent,” Thompson said. In Our Sylvan Heritage: A Guide to the Magnificent Trees of the South Fraser, author Susan Murray notes they once formed the entry to a long-since-abandoned farmhouse.

However, they have “been in bad shape ever since I’ve been here,” said Thompson.

Monday, he pointed to limbs that began breaking about 15 years ago, and noted that pruning, if not done cleanly, can compromise the health of an entire tree.

Thursday morning, the city’s trees and landscaping manager confirmed an arborist has been scheduled to check on the trees this week.

If there are concerns, “then the city will contact the property owner,” manager Nadia Chan told Peace Arch News.

(Chan said she could not share the owner’s name. Efforts to identify the owner by PAN press deadline Thursday were unsuccessful; a phone number listed for the closest home was out of service.)

Under the bylaw, “the owner of a significant tree shall maintain or cause to maintain the tree in accordance with sound arboriculture practice.”

Chan said the 64-hectare property – which is also in the agricultural land reserve – is among 406 sites in the city that have designated significant trees; some sites have more than one such tree. To receive the designation, a tree must be evaluated as exceptional in size, age and/or specimen, she said.

In the case of trees on private property, the designation procedure requires the city receive permission from the property owner, Chan said. To have a tree or trees taken off the list requires the approval of mayor and council.

Thompson said it would be a shame if the health of the 13 elms was deemed too far gone to salvage them.

“Depends whether you value trees,” he said. “I think if they were gone, even if someone were indifferent to trees, (they) would notice.”