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AND FRANKLY: Saving Surrey’s trees is a worthy effort, whatever the motive

Not surprising that some see more in city petition than an effort to save a giant Sequoia

After four years of bitter divides in Surrey, much of which has centred around the council table, it isn’t surprising that some people see underhanded motives in a petition to save a giant Sequoia located at 104 Avenue and 133 Street, near city hall.

The Safe Surrey Coalition, which holds a razor-thin majority on council, launched a campaign on its Facebook page to save the tree from being cut down when the property is developed. To date, more than 10,000 people have signed a petition to that effect. It appears one of the motivations behind SSC’s actions is that Mayor Doug McCallum can see the tree from his office window.

The developer of a proposed 36-storey proposed for the property told Black Press Media’s Tom Zytaruk it will be saved and plans to name the tower “Sequoia.”

Coun. Jack Hundial, who is seeking re-election as part of the Surrey Connect slate, told the Now-Leader SSC is “data mining” with the petition. Given that an election is just three months away, to a politician, every action has a political tinge.

Whatever the motivation, saving significant trees is a worthwhile endeavour.

Surrey has improved somewhat in saving trees in recent years, after some very bad moves in the opposite direction.

The construction of the initial phase of the Campbell Heights business park was particularly destructive, with tens of thousands of trees and whole forests destroyed. Studies showed that the entire ecosystem of the area was significantly altered.

There is no question that development means tree loss. While the city requires other trees to be replanted as replacements, nothing can replace entire forests such as those lost in Campbell Heights. The existing forests south of the current business park likely face a similar fate, as both Surrey and Metro Vancouver have given the green light to further industrial development in the area.

Deb Jack, of Surrey Environmental Partners, says there are all sorts of developments approved by council where huge numbers of trees come down. In her opinion, the city’s record of tree preservation is “poor.” In particular, she says there is no attempt to categorize trees by size before permission to fell them is given.

Developers can fell trees fairly easily, for a price. The same isn’t always true for homeowners. It is sometimes impossible to get a tree permit from city hall, even for trees which pose significant challenges to buildings. In addition, the city doesn’t always stick to its lofty goals, as a letter to the editor of the Peace Arch News from Christina Eden of South Surrey notes.

She and her husband, both in their 80s, mow the city boulevard in front of their home and pick up downed branches from city trees. She was recently chastised by a city worker for placing the branches on the boulevard.

“If this city wants to be the city of trees, then they need to do a better job of maintaining them,” she wrote.

Most Surrey residents love the trees in our area and want to keep as many as possible standing and well-maintained.

The city can always do more to help meet that objective.

Frank Bucholtz writes twice a month for Peace Arch News.