White Rock councillor doubts tree-removal rationale

Marine Drive residents' views cited by David Chesney as reason for clearing hillside.

Clearing work along the Marine Drive hillside that started in the spring has continued east.

Clearing work along the Marine Drive hillside that started in the spring has continued east.

Residents and at least one city councillor are looking for answers after the latest round of ‘vegetation removal’ along White Rock’s Marine Drive hillside.

City staff say the work, which launched in the spring, was necessary to “maintain slope stability,” however, Coun. David Chesney, a longtime opponent of tree removal on ‘the hump,’ told Peace Arch News this week he believes the city has been “disingenuous.”

“It’s to improve the view for some of the people on the hillside,” Chesney said Wednesday. “Why don’t they just come straight out and tell the people in the community, look, we made a promise and told these people we’re going to take these trees out and we took them out. End of story.”

In letters to PAN and in comments online, residents have described the state of the hillside as “so sad,” “despicable” and “devastation.”

Greg St. Louis, the city’s director of engineering and operations, did not return phone calls on the matter but in an email to PAN sent late Wednesday evening, he  said his department’s “primary focus remains on the reconstruction of the Marine Drive retaining wall and eradication of invasive species.”

He said that in undertaking the work, crews uncovered a retaining wall in poor condition that was not known to the city or listed on previous reports.

“Also, we recently found an area of potential slope instability 100 feet long and up to eight feet high,” St. Louis wrote. “If the work had not been completed, it could have meant that the wall or potential slope instability would have never been uncovered.”

The city does not have any draft renderings for what will be planted on the hillside, St. Louis said, however, he said there are several recommendations about what vegetation will be used.

Regarding the removed trees, St. Louis said “some (would have had) a significant impact on the hillside in the next five years.”

Chesney said he is requesting a tour of the hillside with St. Louis and city manager Dan Bottrill with the hopes of better understanding the reasoning behind the project, noting the extent of the work came as a surprise to him in the spring and again last week.

“The way it was pitched… was that it was nothing more than vegetation control,” he said. “When they did the first massive clearcut, I registered my displeasure with them and it sort of fell on deaf ears.”