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Council approves modified tree maintenance and preservation policy

Modifications to the County’s Tree Management and Preservation policy – including use of community-based programs, and various methods of replacement achieving “no net loss” – were approved by council  Tuesday.

The modifications  were made with an eye to keeping costs and resources down, involving the community, emphasis on native trees and requirements for tree sizes.

Last fall, council told staff to re-think a full-time arborist, a new watering truck, extended maintenance and a hike in the budget to $83,000 from $20,000. High costs to replace trees one-for-one was also discussed with a view to focusing on preserving and taking more care during brushing to minimize damage to existing trees.

Among key changes, staff are not be required to meet qualification for an arborist definition, but possess relevant skills and training. Wording of a goal of “no net loss” for tree replacement is included as is support for initiatives of the Environmental Advisory Committee to track newly-planted trees on municipal land. It is not an inventory of all trees under the policy or existing trees throughout the County, but creates a baseline to build on over time. There will also be a document created for maintenance and watering of newly planted and young trees.

Staff suggests the 2021 budget of $20,000 for tree replanting will be sufficient with the modifications in place.

The edits to the policy included the identification and protection of existing trees offsetting those that require removal; this will be most common when mechanical brushing maintenance is taking place on roadsides and along the Millennium Trail.

The addition of alternative methods for replacement, such as seedlings, saplings, citizen, community or service group partnerships and tree give-aways to residents for private property, contributes to the replacement of trees removed by the municipality while greatly reducing the cost of purchasing a tree and having it planted under contract.

The care and maintenance of young trees during the first full growing season will require additional staff time and equipment when not completed through community related initiatives (such as Adopt-a-Tree). There is currently not a watering vehicle suitable for tree watering in the fleet as the two watering trucks are designed for road watering or high pressure hose (former fire truck). Staff notes that with the alternative planting methods added to the policy, the tree watering required can be added with the current staff and vehicle compliment.

The creation of a tree policy has been under way since 2015 through the Tree Policy Ad-Hoc Advisory Committee.

The committee sought more trees, better maintenance and protection. It stressed more trees to provide shade and cooling and the importance of saving, rather than cutting existing canopies.

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