In the following open letter from Dr. Jay Smith to the Mayor and Council of the Town of Qualicum Beach, reference is made to a recently drafted Tree and Vegetation Management Plan that can be viewed at https://qualicumbeach.civicweb.net/filepro/documents/8277, as well as to the Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan that readers can access here:
Dear Mayor and Council,
I am writing you on behalf of the Friends of the Qualicum Beach Forest (FQBF) a group formed last spring. We are a community movement committed to protecting, restoring, enhancing, and maintaining our urban trees and forest on public and private lands in the Town of Qualicum Beach. We have as a primary goal the engagement of our community for a joint collaboration with the Town on the design and implementation of a Tree and Vegetation Management Plan, with the associated bylaws.
This is an exciting time for us as the Town begins to consider the long awaited draft Tree and Vegetation Management Plan prepared by Jeremy Gye. I would like to make four recommendations as follows:
First, FQBF recommends that the name Tree and Vegetation Management Plan be changed to the Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP). This would signify it is more than a tree and vegetation management plan (trees are vegetation). Rather the use of this term (UFMP) speaks to the urban forest, public and private, in a holistic sense as interconnected with all the benefits an urban forest provides. This is illustrated on page 8 of the draft plan by Gye. We recommend that the Town consider our trees as Municipal Natural Infrastructure Assets. In a submission to the mayor and council of Campbell River in November 2018 Greenways Land Trust put it this way:
“Trees provide essential municipal infrastructure functions in storm water management, air quality improvement, energy savings, property value increase, and carbon sequestration, in addition to their inherent habitat value and aesthetic for the community. Whether the tree is on City property or private property has no impact on the value of that tree.”
This holistic view of an urban forest is consistent as well with the definition of the urban forest from the British Columbia Toolkit: “The total collection of trees and associated plants growing in a city or Town. It includes trees in parks and yards, along roadways and paths, and in other areas, both on public and private lands.” [i]
Use of the term UFMP would put the plan at the same level of other strategic and holistic town plans including the Official Community Plan, the Sustainability Plan, and the Waterfront Master Plan. It is noteworthy that, on page 40, the Town Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2020 explicitly states that “Qualicum Beach has not adopted an Urban Forest Master Plan.” The expectation is and has been that Qualicum Beach have an Urban Forest Master Plan explicitly so named.
Second, the relation of the Community Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2020 to the UFMP needs to be made more explicit. The CCCAP has nine overarching areas of focus, six of which are goals of the OCP and the UFMP including the wild/urban interface for fire, natural asset management, urban forest resilience, watershed management, invasive species and climate change integration. The UFMP needs to make explicit reference to the CCCAP which is highly supportive of the necessity of a UFMP. For example, the task force recommendations of the CCCAP noted above should be considered as part of the UFMP.
Third, given that the Town is undergoing an update of their “Asset Management Strategy” as outlined in a document of February 5, 2020 this would be an opportunity to include our trees and urban forest as natural infrastructure assets. According to the “ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability” a global network of more than 1,750 local and regional governments committed to sustainable urban development, “A healthy urban forest is one of the only municipal capital investments that will appreciate in value over time.” [ii] Trees have value. We must value our trees.
Fourth, and key to our group, is the need for the Town to clearly articulate how citizens may be engaged in the design and implementation of a UFMP and accompanying bylaws. It is the historical norm and expectation of the citizens of Qualicum Beach that in plans of this magnitude that they be involved. While we are in a Pandemic critical social functions have not been discontinued and many businesses have managed to adapt and continue their activity. We all recognize that education is a priority and we must ensure it happens even in a Pandemic. The same goes for democracy and citizen engagement. Engagement of citizens in the design of the UFMP is essential and where there is a will there must be a way.
Finally, we urge that design and approval of the Urban Forest Master Plan and the accompanying bylaws be done at the same time. Indeed, Gye’s draft plan already has significant elements of both. There is ample research on bylaws in other BC municipalities that we are willing to bring to your attention if it would facilitate the process.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate that the Friends of the Qualicum Beach Forest sees itself as constructively engaging with the town to ensure that we get the best Urban Forest Management Plan and set of bylaws possible.
Jay Smith, PhD
Spokesperson for the Friends of the Qualicum Beach Forest
Arrowsmith Parks and Land Use Council
Brown Property Preservation Society
Chartwell Residents Association
Communities Protecting Our Coast
Eaglecrest Residents Association
Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region
Qualicum Beach Residents Association
Qualicum Beach Streamkeepers Society
Qualicum Nature Preservation Society
Qualicum Woods Residents Association