Parksville’s parks and facilities department has asked city council for $150,000 for the management of dying Western Red Cedars.
The requested amount was asked to be included in the 2021-2026 budget, and to be paid out over three years in increments of $50,000, allocated for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
Guy Martin, manager of parks and facilities, went before the city council to present a report during the special council meeting on Nov. 4.
In the report it states that “the city of Parksville has seen losses of WRC greater than 50 per cent of the existing canopy,” and that “the department has been managing the situation through the operating funds for urban forestry.”
This year the tree services budget totalled $102,000. Of that, $73,500, just shy of 72 per cent of the total budget, is allocated to contract services for dealing with WRC mitigation and wood removals.
“Its eating up the lion’s share of our budget. We’re not able to go and do proactive management. We’re not staying ahead of the game,” said Martin.
The report also states that the management of WRC has reduced the amount normally used for other tree management services, such as regular pruning cycles and planting native and specimen trees.
“Due to lack of resources, there are many ornamental and street trees that have not been managed with best plant health care practices. Basically, there is no proactive tree pruning program of street or park trees.”
Coun. Doug O’Brien said he was “quite shocked” that there hasn’t been “much proactive tree management” for the last five years.
The report’s provided background stated that the decline of WRC is not a new phenomenon, but has been gradually occurring for the last few decades. Western Red Cedars die from the top down, and as a result coarse wood debris (what is naturally left on the forest floor and is integral to the ecosystem) becomes overloaded. When an entire species is failing all at once, the overloaded coarse wood debris combined with the dry conditions of climate change presents a potentially hazardous fuel loading situation.