White Rock Coun. Scott Kristjanson said it’s “inexcusable” and “shameful” that city staff issued instructions to fell two mature trees on Oxford Street without advance warning to council members.
The two trees, just south of Prospect Avenue, were taken down Thursday by a private contractor working on behalf of the city.
Kristjanson said he was notified by email from operations manager Jim Gordon at 10 a.m. Thursday that the trees – which he referred to as “eagle trees” – were to be removed.
“I got down here five minutes later,” he told Peace Arch News, as he stood watching the work being done.
In talking to neighbours, he discovered that work had been going on since around 9 a.m., and that the tops of the trees had been removed shortly after that.
“There may be reasons for such work to be done – but we should have been in the loop,” he said.
“We’re the ones who end up wearing this,” he added.
“Staff is well aware that one of our strategic positions is protecting the environment, that that is one of the platforms on which we were elected. But council members weren’t notified and the mayor wasn’t notified. Staff may not want us involved in operations matters, but it’s unacceptable for a council not to be involved in the governance of this city.”
Kristjanson said the justification offered by Gordon is that the trees were unhealthy and posed a hazard.
He said he had spoken to one resident who had complained to the city that falling needles from the Douglas firs had the potential to cause damage. But another neighbour he spoke to said she had mixed feelings about the removal of the trees – while it improved her view, she had enjoyed watching eagles perching in them.
Kristjanson said he also learned the safety of the trees had been a subject of discussion for a decade prior to their removal.
“Why, if this has been going on for 10 years, do they suddenly have to be taken down today?” Kristjanson asked. “And why couldn’t it have waited 24 hours, at least, until council were informed?”
Kristjanson praised the competence and responsibility of the contractors, who said that a crow’s nest had been removed from the trees, but that they did not contain any eagles’ nests.
He said that, while the top sections of the trees may have been compromised, the lower portions of the trees, which were also removed, appeared to be “super healthy.”
“The bottom 60 feet should have been preserved as a place for eagles to nest, he said.
The councillor – who has advocated the city plant flowers to beautify hillside walkways – said he believes the tree sections hauled away represent lumber worth $40,000, although he did not know whether that value would be recouped by the city.
“If that’s $40,000 revenue, that’s money that should go toward planting some flowers,” he said.