White Rock resident Barry Belec seeks to protect trees.

White Rock resident Barry Belec seeks to protect trees.

Trees not on record in White Rock

Decade-old heritage policy yet to be used

A White Rock man is considering legal action after returning home last week to find an “absolutely perfect” Douglas fir on his property damaged by excavation.

“They dug three feet into the base of that tree, which means they have basically wiped out all the feeder roots,” Barry Belec said as he surveyed the aftermath.

“This whole thing is tragic. Every arbourist that’s ever looked at it has said… it’s as close as possible to a perfect specimen.”

The tree stands on the edge of Belec’s Buena Vista Avenue property. About 130 feet tall and more than a century old, its trunk abuts a fence marking the property line.

It is also among four on the Buena Vista Avenue property that Belec has asked the city to consider for heritage status.

Belec said he discovered the damage around 12:30 p.m. May 31. While the City of White Rock’s arbourist attended the site that day, director of operations Rob Thompson said the matter is a civil one.

“We don’t have any authority to be involved,” Thompson said Thursday, noting the tree does not fall under the jurisdiction of the tree bylaw.

However, the city’s position would be different, Thompson confirmed, if the tree in question had heritage designation.

“It becomes a protected tree,” he said, citing fines and penalties of up to $10,000 outlined in the city’s tree bylaw for damage to, or removal of, protected trees.

But while the City of White Rock has had a heritage-tree policy on the books for more than a decade, there has yet to be a single tree in the city protected by it.

A heritage-tree policy was adopted in September 2000. Coun. Helen Fathers said she discovered about a month ago that there were no trees protected by it.

“I was shocked,” Fathers said of the revelation. “For it to be in place for 11 years (and have no trees registered), I don’t understand that.”

In discussing the issue last month with members of the city’s environment committee, Fathers encouraged the group to recommend to council that the process of registering trees get underway.

The recommendation was on council’s agenda May 30, along with others related to the city’s policy for trees on public land. However, rather than discuss them, council voted to refer all of the recommendations to staff who are reviewing Policy 611.

Last week’s request for action on heritage trees was not the first time the city has been asked to move on the policy.

According to minutes of 2008 environment committee meetings, a lack of identified heritage trees was noted. The city’s 2008 Environmental Strategic Plan lists creating an inventory of valued and heritage trees in the city, aimed at protecting and enhancing tree canopy.

Belec, a former member of the environment committee, said one of his last acts in 2002 was to submit a list of 36 trees for heritage consideration.

Belec said he was surprised to learn last month that no one at city hall knows of the list.

Thompson, hired by the city a year ago, said council asked his department to bring the heritage-designation process forward. The motion asked that six trees – elms on Elm Street, oaks on the White Rock Elementary site, ivy trees at Five Corners and an eagles-nest tree on Marine Drive – be placed on the registry.

A draft of the updated policy is expected by council this month.

Thompson said he, too, was surprised to learn the city has no designated trees after more than 10 years with a heritage policy. He speculated shifts in focus over the years may have played a role, along with high staff turnover.

“If (Belec) submitted it personally to somebody and they didn’t do anything with it, we have no way of finding it,” he said.

Thompson noted simply submitting a list wouldn’t guarantee protection. Each tree would be evaluated based on the policy, which currently identifies cultural and historical significance and whether the tree is a landmark as among factors to consider.

Thompson described the process of designating heritage trees as “a worthwhile endeavour.”

“Trees are an emotional issue,” he said. “They are a visual and historical element of the city. In some ways, they are the continuity of the city.”

Belec said his damaged tree was among those originally planted on the property that once lined a driveway that stretched to Thrift Avenue. Now, he’s worried the excavation work could affect its integrity long-term.

“This is very sad for me,” Belec said. “This feels like the most horrific molestation and violation of my home and my property.”

Just Posted

A mixed-use development with 69 market rental units and 10 commercial units is proposed for the 2300-block of King George Boulevard. (Thinkspace rendering)
Pair of South Surrey apartment proposals move forward

Council gives third reading to rezoning applications for market-rental and residential projects

Launched in January, Uplift Canada was founded by Tsawwassen resident Maggie Larocque. (submitted photo)
Surrey shelters get clothing collected June 26 by Uplift Canada

Book a pickup on website of the new non-profit, founded by Delta resident

Converter thefts have increased dramatically as the price of platinum has skyrocketed. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press photo)
Catalytic converter thefts continue to plague Delta

Police say the thefts are on the rise across the city, with seven incidents on Thursday, June 17

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
‘Stay-at-home mom’ works to raise $25K to help Options build housing in Surrey

Tammy Bourelle boosts ‘Women of Options’ fundraising campaign, which ends June 30

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

A search is underway for a 75-year-old fisherman who went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search continues for angler missing between Port Angeles and Victoria

Canadian, U.S. Coast Guard searching for 75-year-old man reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read