Surrey launches ambitious 20-year shade tree plan

City tables a vision to increase trees in public spaces over the next two decades.

Surrey is embarking on an ambitious plan to increase the number of shade trees in public spaces.

The 2015/2016 Shade Tree Management Plan is making the rounds through various city committees, where staff say it is being well-received.

As of last year, there were more than 95,000 shade trees in Surrey public spaces (natural forests are excluded from the count), and the city was planting 5,000 more each year, according to the study.

The draft plan calls on the city to plant 1,000 street trees and 500 in parks annually for the next 10 years.

The 51-page plan indicates for every dollar spent planting a shade tree, the city harvests $3.18 in benefits, such as energy savings, carbon sequestration, air quality improvements, storm water retention, increased property values and other benefits.

The plan calls or a mix of species to better ensure long-term survival of the trees.

Surrey’s Manager of Parks Owen Croy said right now, the city is unevenly weighted towards using Western red cedar.

“And we’ve got more maples in our inventory than would be desirable,” Croy said. “So we want to slow down on maples, slow down on Western red cedar, and concentrate on other species.”

The report also calls for care for the city’s tree canopy cover (how much area is covered by the full bloom of the tree).

“The extent of a city’s canopy cover is considered to be an indicator of the ecological well-being of the city,” the draft plan states.

The current canopy cover for parkland trees is an estimated 5.7 per cent.

According to a separate 2013 study, the city-wide tree canopy has dropped to 27 per cent two years ago from 33 per cent in 2001. An ideal city-wide coverage would be 40 per cent for an environmentally friendly city.

Croy said the Shade Tree Management Plan was not put in place to offset any losses of canopy.

“This shade tree management plan was not triggered by that study,” Croy said. “We look to have best management practices instituted for our municipally owned trees, which only comprise a small portion of the entire population of trees across the city.”

As this plan comes to light, other cities are calling Surrey for input into their own shade tree plans and strategies.

Croy said Surrey residents have already likely seen evidence of the greening of Surrey’s streets and parks. The plan puts an existing practice into a longer-term vision.

Croy also wants to see the creation of a shade tree advisory committee, whereby any future adjustments can be made to enhance the city’s canopy cover on public lands.

The 2015/2016 Shade Tree Management Plan is expected before city council sometime in April.


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