More than 50 trees were mistakenly cut down in a Saanich park on July 14 and municipal staff are working with stakeholders to get to the bottom of the incident.
The District of Saanich issued a stop-work order on a construction project for a new Saanich Neighbourhood Place (SNP) daycare shortly after the contractor, Knappett Projects Inc., “made an error” and removed trees not permitted for removal in Cuthbert Holmes Park behind the Pearkes Recreation Centre, explained district spokesperson Megan Catalano on July 17.
She said a tree removal permit obtained by the contractor indicated that a small number of trees – one bylaw-protected tree – could be removed for construction.
Saanich later clarified that parks staff confirmed a total of 56 trees were incorrectly removed. Many of them were multi-stem trees – more than one trunk per tree.
In an email, Corinne Hilton Bains, executive director of SNP, explained that the non-profit organization had leased the land behind the Pearkes Recreation Centre to build a one-storey daycare centre and that arbourists had identified six protected trees on the site.
She explained that SNP’s tree removal application “was approved by Saanich and none of the protected trees indicated have been harmed.” Bains added that SNP had yet to receive “written clarification as to why a stop-work order was issued for this project.”
“All parties are working to resolve this issue satisfactorily and hope that work on the new childcare building will be able to resume in a timely manner,” she said.
According to SNP’s development permit application – approved by the former Saanich council in August 2017 – the new daycare was to be built on “the existing parking lot, rather than in the wooded area” to avoid removing most trees. In the application, it was explained that up to six trees would need to be removed for construction but that nine new trees would be planted.
Coun. Rebecca Mersereau, chair of Saanich’s Environment and Natural Areas committee, was alarmed to hear about the “non-permitted removal of trees” on July 14 and attended the site two days later to view the “scale of the impacts.”
“In Saanich, we take tree protection very seriously and invest a lot of time and resources in ensuring we continue to have a healthy urban tree canopy,” she said, adding that district staff are investigating “the reasons behind the non-permitted tree removals.”
Mersereau noted that regardless of what led to the tree-cutting, it was “very tragic”– especially for those who’ve been protecting Cuthbert Holmes Park and the nearby Colquitz River for many years.
Catalano said there will likely be penalties issued.
Editors note: This story was updated July 21 to confirm the number of trees incorrectly removed.