New Westminster protecting urban forest with new bylaws
By Aaron Guillen, Staff Reporter
Those who have been living in New Westminster for the past two decades, might have noticed the amount of greenery in the city has slowly declined. This is because there has been an estimated 1.5 per cent yearly decrease in the botany since 1994. As the discussions of climate change reach an all-time high around the world, the City of New Westminster is taking action to prevent further loss of their urban forest.
The urban forest includes all private trees, public trees, and supporting greenery in the area. From the hordes of trees that can be seen while looking out the SkyTrain windows, to the row of trees along the sidewalk heading to Douglas College, all shrubs and the like make up the 18 per cent urban forest that currently covers New Westminster.
Although it has the same percentage as neighbouring cities such as Vancouver and Victoria, it pales in comparison to the North American average of 27 per cent. Understandably, most cities with a higher density population will have lower numbers, but that doesn’t mean that the city has to give up on its dream. Last year, the New York City accomplished their goal of planting one million trees in 10 years, which was planned in 2007, just under 2 years ahead of schedule.
With the Urban Forest Management Strategy voted in only a couple weeks ago, City Hall has their minds set on “an additional 8,500 trees on public lands and 3,300 on private lands by 2035”—10,000 of which will be planted within the next 10 years. Additionally, the new bylaw protects Crown trees and sets up a system for private property owners who want to remove their trees, who will now require a permit from city hall. Overall, the new strategy intends to keep New Westminster sustainably healthy, happy, and beautiful through its “protect, enhance, and engage” initiative.
The residents of New West are encouraged to protect the trees on their property in solidarity to help sustain and improve the urban forest. The city recommends residents to go out of their way during the hotter months by watering the neighbourhood trees and complying with open fire bans.
“We recognized that trees are often managed at the periphery of city policy. We see trees every day. They define our experience in the city, but we rarely treat them as an aggregate, as an asset for the city,” said Edward Porter of Diamond Head Consulting to the New Westminster Record.
“One of the opportunities with the city’s urban forest management study is to look beyond trees in the city and start to look at a forest for the city.”