Village officials and forestry experts are putting their heads together to make a better plan for the village’s trees and forested areas.
The village and forestry consultants B.A. Blackwell and Associates hosted a public open house on Thursday (July 28) to gather feedback to draft an Urban Forest Master Plan. A master plan would be designed to conserve and protect trees, strategically create cover and shade and bring structure to maintaining and growing the tree population in the village.
According to the assessment, there are currently 1,696 trees in Harrison, nine parks spread over 126 hectares and 455 hectares of naturalized areas.
The village’s bylaws have some existing regulations concerning trees. The Tree Management and Preservation Bylaw applies specifically to trees classified as “distinct trees,” which are taller than seven metres tall and wider than 30 centimetres in diameter. However, Existing bylaws concerning tree preservation and protection are not considered to be strong enough, by the Blackwell assessment. Some suggested bylaws included requiring replacement trees to be planned and installing tree barriers during construction around the village.
The assessment did acknowledge the village has limited enforcement capabilities.
Managing hazard trees is one of the chief concerns that emerged from the consultation. B.A. Blackwell representatives state that aging and hazard trees need to be monitored regularly and placed in their own inventory, highlighting willow trees on Esplanade Avenue and larger trees in Rendall Park as examples.
The village has a number of naturalized areas surrounding it, and officials have expressed a desire to plant more trees. There are regulations prohibiting tree damage as well, but enforcement resources are not sufficient, B.A. Blackwell found. Though there is a “distinct” tree category by current regulations, the definition of “protected tree” is lacking. B.A. Blackwell also found a lack of hazardous tree management strategy, no municipal policies specifically responding to pests, disease or climate change and current practices need to be more proactive.
The current forested areas around Harrison have a large population of western hemlock trees, which consultants indicated have a high rate of failure and windthrow. Blackwell told The Observer that trees like cedar and fir – which were more prevalent back in the heyday of logging in the Harrison area – would be better suited for the area. This may be particularly true with the fir tree as it tolerates drier climates than a cedar would. Blackwell added the goal would not so much be to eliminate the hemlock population as increase the population of hardier, suitable trees.
One of the biggest threats to the health of the current urban forest is a lack of authorization to maintain surrounding Crown lands, including portions of the East Sector lands, which have been of particular concern. This concern is especially real when it comes to potential wildfire hazards in close proximity to the village. Forester and biologist Bruce Blackwell told The Observer that one of the goals for the Urban Forest Master Plan was to find a solution to better maintain forested areas on Crown land. The assessment noted that the village staff was limited in its ability to inspect landscaping and concluded that cooperative efforts from the province and Fraser Valley Regional District would be ideal for the continued health and growth of Harrison’s trees.
Consultants highlighted several potential benefits of an urban forest, including moderate temperatures, reduced air pollution, reduced sun exposure and lower energy costs.
The village has posted a four-question feedback survey based on the findings of B.A. Blackwell & Associates in hopes of gathering thoughts from village residents. to participate in the survey online, go to getintoitharrison.ca.