A work plan and timeline for the development of an uptown tree management plan has a couple of Qualicum Beach councillors worried that more street trees will be removed from the village neighbourhood.
Planning director Luke Sales said the work plan and timeline is meant to develop a tree retention program, as a better way to mitigate the damaging effects of trees and tree roots, which can be tripping hazards, while maintaining the benefits of street trees.
“The purpose of a tree management plan will be to clarify responsibilities and work processes, and to provide guidance on installation, repair and maintenance of sidewalks and street trees in Qualicum Beach,” Sales said.
The motion for staff to proceed with the development of a tree management plan for the uptown area passed with councillors Barry Avis and Anne Skipsey voting against the motion. Skipsey asked for a recorded vote.
Skipsey said she’d had one resident approach her asking if the town was moving toward a tree-removal plan. Skipsey also said there have been trees removed and not replaced.
“I think we’re making much more of this than we really need to,” said Skipsey, adding the trees create the look and feel of Qualicum Beach.
Avis said he was concerned about the character of Qualicum Beach, since “we’re seeing trees in our downtown area disappear without replacement.”
“I would also like to assure that when we do our asset management, that as long as screwdrivers and wrenches are considered an asset, our trees should also be considered an asset,” Avis said.
Mayor Teunis Westbroek said reports of a number of trips and falls within the commercial core triggered the management plan.
“People have come in with arms broken, heads bleeding,” Westbroek said. “You can’t just continue on and pretend we don’t have a problem. These trees were nice when they were little, but now that they’re big they become a problem and we have to deal with them.”
The issue is relevant in Qualicum Beach, Westbroek said, with the town having “one of the worst records” as far as trips and falls. However, Westbroek told The NEWS not everyone reports their trips and falls.
“We have the oldest population in Canada, that’s why it’s different.”
He said the tree management plan is the right approach, adding that council and staff want public input and input from parks and recreation and public works. Westbroek said the town does have a policy to inspect sidewalks on a regular basis and keep track of any problem areas.
Westbroek said that while council needs to be concerned about the trees, it also needs to be concerned about the safety of people.
The next regular council meeting is Nov. 20.