University students compile data on White Rock trees.

University students compile data on White Rock trees.

White Rock takes inventory of its trees

Young workers tagging and measuring trees on city property in White Rock over the past couple of months have been cause for some alarm among residents.

Young workers tagging and measuring trees on city property in White Rock over the past couple of months have been cause for some alarm among residents.

But they shouldn’t fear the trees were being targeted for removal, says White Rock engineering director Rob Thompson.

“It’s quite the opposite,” Thompson said this week. “We’re developing a database of trees to make sure they are preserved as long as, and whenever, possible,” he said, adding the program is part of a recognition that trees are a valuable asset for the city, both aesthetically and practically.

“They help us control storm water run-off, for example.”

The inventory project is a co-op placement of four university students with the city that began this June and ends this week. The program will probably be continued for the next two years, Thompson explained, until a complete inventory can be compiled.

Under the guidance of city arborist Aelicia Otto, this year’s students have been Simon Fraser fourth-year geographic information systems (GIS) major Jerry Mo; third-year UBC forestry resource management major Shane Jobber, fourth-year forestry major Laiyi Chow and Siew Law, who has her bachelors’ degree in forestry from UBC and is currently pursuing her masters in GIS at the University of Calgary.

During a brief break from their assignment at White Rock’s Allan Hogg Rotary Park Wednesday, the team members explained their jobs, which are also giving them valuable experience that will help them gain employment in their field.

Law, equipped with a GPS unit, has been pre-surveying trees, tagging them for detailed inspection by Chow and Jobber.

“We’ve assessed them by species, height, size, and overall health, inspecting them for insects and disease and any other problems that would affect the tree,” Jobber said.

“It’s a very proactive approach to tree resource management,” Chow said.

IT specialist for the group is Mo, who said he has been gaining experience using “cutting-edge technology” employed by the city, while building up a detailed database from the information gathered by the others.

“It’s very exciting for a small city like White Rock to be creating an inventory of this kind,” said Otto. “Jerry’s programming allows us to compare different aspects of trees to one an other, and compare to an ideal example of each species.

“For an important community resource like trees, it gives us a more accurate picture of what we’re dealing with, and allows us to design how we move forward.”