Residents have called into City Hall to say how much they like Chilliwack's street trees. These ornamental plum trees were planted in 1985 in honour of Expo '86.

Residents have called into City Hall to say how much they like Chilliwack's street trees. These ornamental plum trees were planted in 1985 in honour of Expo '86.

Street tree program entrenched in Chilliwack policy

Maintaining the thousands of street trees across Chilliwack costs about $95,000 every year

Many Chilliwack residents are fond of the ornamental plum trees that blossom into a riot of pink every spring.

They value the aesthetic beauty and derive a certain identity from them.

More than 600 of those plum trees were planted for Expo ’86 and they marked the first bold step toward a street tree initiative by the city, said Dave Snider, manager of parks, in his staff report to council.

Some of those mature trees are now reaching their end of life and need to be replaced.

Council voted last Tuesday to entrench the current practice around replacing urban trees into a formal Street Tree Management policy.

The street tree maintenance program costs about $95,000 every year, said Dave Snider, manager of parks in his staff report to council. It does not cover services of a professional arborist.

Street trees add so much and a science-based argument can also be made for the many benefits of the 8,000 street trees in Chilliwack. They filter air, provide oxygen and shade. They sequester carbon, shade cars and soften unpleasant views, according to the council presentation.

“Studies have shown street trees even make pedestrians walk slower,” he said.

Trees can slow vehicle traffic because of friction when they are planted near the road, and they can increase home values because of the visuals.

Calls have often come from residents who want to express their deep appreciation for trees, said Snider.

Five years ago the city hired its first arborist, and started using a computer program called Tree Works, which has data on 5,200 trees.

The distinctive plum trees for example, can be found in all their springtime splendour on Spadina Avenue, Yale and Airport Roads.

Tree works provides statistical data on each tree and plots it on a map with a green dot, noting diameter, health rating and canopy size, for example.

“We can keep track of how these trees are doing, and kick out reports about them.”

Defects can be monitored.

Before the vote, Coun. Jason Lum asked if it wasn’t “putting the cart before the horse,” to approve the creation of a street tree policy, given the $95,000 price tag annually and how that might impact the budget.

But Snider said the intent was actually to formalize current city practice into policy.

Coun. Stewart McLean wanted to know if other areas were in line to get new street trees in downtown Chilliwack, and was told most of the budget would be dealing with tree damage.

However concept plans are being developed for expanding the street trees down Spadina Avenue.

Council approved the recommendation to reaffirm its commitment to the street tree program, remove and replace trees as they reach end of life and as funding permits, and have staff prepare a Street Tree Management Policy to cover inventory, inspection, maintenance, removal and replacement of trees.