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New West going green with urban forest strategy

The City of New Westminster is looking to liven up its streets with greenery.
Urban Forest
New Westminster is looking to increase the amount of greenery in urban areas of the city with an urban forest strategy.

The City of New Westminster is looking to liven up its streets with greenery.

The city’s urban forest management strategy – currently being prepared by city staff – aims to put more trees and plant life in urban areas, creating environmental, social and economic benefits.

“The document, at the end of the day, identifies what the need or the current state is of the health and welfare of our urban forest, which pertains to all the trees that exist in the city,” said Dean Gibson, director of parks, culture and recreation in New West.

“Part of the work we’ve been doing is an assessment in terms of how that tree canopy coverage has been either holding its own or growing or declining.”

The city’s forest canopy – the spread of tree crowns – covers just 18 per cent of the city, down from 22 per cent in 1994. While the current figure matches Vancouver and Victoria, it falls short of the North American average of 27 per cent and the recommended best practice of 40 per cent.

Broken down by neighbourhood, only Queen’s Park and Glenbrooke South exceed the North American average.

While the strategy aims to add more greenery to New Westminster, Gibson said it’s up to council if they want to reach the continental average or keep coverage at 18 per cent.

“A target hasn’t yet been established formally by city council,” he said. “What is probably more important is that the 18 per cent number is lower than it has been in previous years – it seems to be identifying a trend over a period of time that suggests our overall canopy coverage is coming down.”

According to the city, urban forests provide numerous benefits, including rainfall interception, air filtration, wildlife habitats and shade.

Since the report went before council in October, the city held two open houses to gather information from the public as to what they’d like to see in the strategy.

“We’ve had a few people who are very strong and passionate advocates about our environment,” he said, “but the response has not been overwhelming, relative to other things that the city might be consulting on.”

Despite the light response, Gibson said those who have appeared at the open house support the city’s efforts to implement the strategy.

Gibson said a draft of the strategy will likely appear before council within the next six to eight weeks. Following consideration by council, city staff will make any necessary revisions before sending it back for adoption.