New West residents can buy trees, plant trees and water trees to help grow the city’s tree canopy.
The City of New Westminster’s 2016 urban forest management strategy has a goal of increasing the tree canopy in New West from 18% to 27% by 2035. To accomplish that goal, the strategy proposes the planting of 3,330 new trees on private land and 8,500 new trees on public land, including new street trees (6,300) and new trees on city-owned park and civic lands (2,200).
“We are very excited about this first round of opportunities,” said Dean Gibson, the city’s director of parks and recreation.
Gibson said the city will start with “baby steps” and can build on the success of the programs that are getting underway this month. By starting small, he said the community will learn about opportunities as they become available and staff will learn how they can best support the community in these endeavours.
Starting Feb. 14, residents can pre-order two trees at a subsidized price and pick them up at the Queensborough Community Centre on March 14. Varieties of apple, magnolia and spruce are expected to be among the trees available for the first sale.
“We are being conservative because this is our first event. It’s difficult to gauge the interest. We are allocating for about 125 trees. We are opening an online portal mid-month, this month,” said Jeff Case, an arboriculture technician with the city. “We are allowing for two trees maximum per house. We will have five different species to choose from.”
Once those 125 trees are spoken for, Case said the city may be in a position to order more trees to accommodate interest.
Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said she’d like to ensure the city finds a way of making sure multi-family dwellings, such as condos and apartments, are aware of the program.
“From what I have heard from other municipalities that have done this, it has been hugely successful,” said Coun. Mary Trentadue. “I hope that ours will be as well.”
Coun. Chuck Puchmayr likes the idea of including fruit trees in the sale.
“I have always wondered when we plant street trees why we don’t plant fruit trees. If somebody is walking down the street and there is a ripe apple there, why can’t they just grab it? It’s food,” he said. “I am very pleased that the apple trees are part of that.”
The City of New Westminster is also launching a tree rebate program to encourage tree plantings on private property. Through this program, the city will offer residents a $20 voucher/rebate toward the purchase of a tree that is equal to or greater than $50 from one of the local participating nurseries.
Coun. Patrick Johnstone said the tree sale and tree rebate program will help the city reach its goal of increasing the tree canopy, as the city doesn’t have enough land to reach those goals on its own.
“We really want to foster this conversation to really create a snowball effect, if you will, to engage with our residents,” Case said. “Private property is a key for us as a community to achieve our 27% tree canopy.”
The city is also launching a new adopt-a-street-tree program that will get residents to provide “tree care assistance” when new trees are planted in the street or boulevard near their homes. It’s proposed that residents will help water the trees in the dry summer months, add mulch at the base of the trees as needed and notify the parks and recreation department if they detect any issues or have any concerns with the trees.
Street trees that aren’t adopted by residents will be placed on the “operational watering list” and will be watered and monitored by city staff. During the course of that work, staff will also be able to keep an eye on the condition of trees that have been adopted by residents.
Staff will report back to council on the success of these programs in late spring 2020 and make recommendations for the continuation of the tree sale, which could be held in the spring and fall, the adopt-a tree program and the tree voucher program, which would be held every spring.
Details about the programs will be posted on the city’s website, www.newwestcity.ca.