EDITORIAL: Stick figures

Departing Surrey mayor Dianne Watts is right – the city should not be taking down evergreens and planting 'stick' trees.

Departing Surrey mayor Dianne Watts is absolutely right – the city should not be taking down evergreens and planting what she describes as “stick” trees.

Describing the current city policy – or policy by default – as one of the pet peeves of her nine-year reign, Watts urged city staff last week, in one of her final acts as mayor, to make sure Surrey’s shrinking tree canopy henceforth includes a combination of maple trees and evergreens.

The valedictory of the erstwhile city leader should be heeded by her successor, Linda Hepner, who was sworn in as mayor last night.

Ever the astute politician, Watts is not one to be unaware of changing moods in the city or be oblivious to increasing discontent about the elimination of mature trees from neighbourhoods cited for new housing and business development.

The citizens of Surrey didn’t need a city-commissioned report – unveiled late last month – to tell them the city’s tree canopy has been drastically reduced in recent years. The report’s greatest value is in quantifying what, for some, has become more than a grim suspicion.

While Surrey’s Sustainability Charter has pegged a 40 per cent tree canopy in urban areas as a goal to be reached by 2058 – and this ratio is held as an indicator of an environmentally friendly city – the report shows Surrey galloping in the other direction.

According to the report, Surrey – which used to pride itself as ‘The City of Parks’ – has seen its canopy drop from 33 per cent in 2001 to 30 per cent in 2009 and 27.17 per cent in 2013, in areas not protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve.

That’s more than a 17 per cent decline in 13 years, even with the ‘replacement’ trees that have been planted in new developments.

As Watts declared, the city has been equally responsible for promoting the ‘stick’ trend, planting lesser trees on its medians and along its boulevards, as though this could be sufficient compensation for what is lost.

To some, a tree is a tree, but even a rudimentary knowledge of botany would indicate the vast difference between a row of recently planted small trees and a stand of mature ones.

Many who, like Watts, seek to protect Surrey’s older trees are not opposed to development. They merely think we could be more intelligent about incorporating existing vegetation with new building, through judicious land swaps and a willingness to vary from private-profit-driven streetscapes.

And if Surrey is to reach its 40 per cent tree-canopy goal, city staff cannot afford to ignore or marginalize the efforts of engaged citizens who – for the ultimate good of the city – seek creative solutions.

Just Posted

Surrey killer foiled by cops’ suspicion he was underage in a bar

Birinderjeet Singh Bhangu was shot dead outside the Comfort Inn and Suites Hotel on Fraser Highway

Community invited to help with Downtown Surrey BIA’s fence art project

Association is hoping to change the ‘narrative’ for 135A Street with artwork

Blaine railway stop contingent on international support: All Aboard Washington

Non-profit organizers look to residents of Surrey, White Rock and North Whatcom County

Delta man charged after police surround Tsawwassen home

Troy Kevin Reimer, 52, is charged with one count of uttering or conveying a threat to cause death or bodily harm

Bureaucracy leaves Whalley Legion members thirsty

Legion’s new location needs liquor licence, despite being down street from former digs

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Report of dead body in B.C. park actually headless sex doll

This discovery, made at Manning Park on July 10, led police to uncovering two other sex mannequins

Grand Forks fire chief found to have bullied, harassed volunteer firefighter: report

WorkSafeBC, third-party human resources investigation looking into allegations complete

Dog recovering after being drenched in hot coffee, B.C. man charged

Man was taken into custody, charged, and released pending a court date

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

Most Read

l -->