British Columbia

Vancouver moves thousands of $10 trees at fall sale while councillor asks for better long-term care

The city's now regular tree sale for residents is helping to meet the goal of planting 150,000 new trees by 2020, but Coun. Adriane Carr wants more done to make sure that trees are surviving to maturity.

'We could be investing in something for nothing,' says Adriane Carr if trees don't make it to maturity

A Vancouver Park Board staff member carries trees at a tree sale on Sunday, September 17, 2017 at Hillcrest Community Centre. 2000 trees were sent home with residents to plant on their properties to help improve the city's tree canopy cover. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Vancouver's regular tree sale for residents is helping to meet the goal of planting 150,000 new trees by 2020, but at least one city councillor wants more to be done to make sure that trees are surviving to maturity.

"We could be investing in something for nothing," said Green Coun. Adriane Carr about the program that provides $10 trees to Vancouver residents.

Carr is worried that hot, dry summers such as this one and the summer of 2015 are harming trees, especially young ones that need extra water to survive.

"When trees are young you have to make sure they have sufficient water because they are very vulnerable at that stage," she said.

The tree sale is helping the city meet its goal of increasing its canopy cover — the amount of area tree leaves cover as seen from the sky — to 22 per cent.

That's what it was in 1995 before the pace of development in the city resulted in more than 20,000 healthy, mature trees being removed from private properties, according to the city's urban forest strategy.

The canopy cover is currently at around 18 per cent.

A fallen tree at a development site in Vancouver on Cambie Street at 59th Avenue. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

'The answer is street trees'

"Whatever your question about cities is, the answer is street trees," said former chief planner for Vancouver Brent Toderian.

What he means is that studies show that trees on city streets and on private property benefit cities and their residents in a multitude of ways from cleaner air, cooler temperatures, and better water management to mental and physical well-being.

"People are really excited about their trees," said Dana MacDonald, the environmental stewardship coordinator for the Vancouver Park Board who runs the tree sale.

She says that up to 18,000 trees are planted every year across the city, either through the tree sale or by city crews. But at that pace the city won't meet its canopy goal until 2055.

'I think the green is good to see and it's healthy for the environment," said Andrea Currie who purchased an apple tree at the Vancouver tree sale put on by the Park Board on September, 17, 2017. "Trees are important, trees are good." (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Carr is worried though that the 22 per cent goal could also be hampered by continued hot summers, which have stressed trees, resulting in the Park Board reaching out to residents to help keep them alive by watering them.

Thats why she is calling for higher staffing levels at the Park Board to manage the city's park and city trees.

There are six watering trucks currently being double-shifted to get out to trees in distress.

She also hopes people who have picked up trees at the sales are able to give them the care they need so that they become a contributing part of the canopy.

"It's an investment that's far bigger than just the initial cost of a tree," she said.

Park Board staff say they do not monitor the ongoing health of trees sold through its sales, but hope the enthusiasm around buying the trees carries onto their care.

Dave Lambert has purchased $10 trees from the Vancouver Park Board on multiple occasions to add to what he already has growing in his yard. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Dave Lambert has purchased trees at the Vancouver tree sale multiple times and keeps coming back.

"$10 trees, you can't go wrong," he said as he loaded in fig and cherry trees into his vehicle on Sunday. "The figs are incredible."

He encourages other residents to take advantage of the sale, which, on Sunday, sold all of its 2,000 trees that were made available.

The Park Board will hold another tree sale in April.

With files from Jon Hernandez.