Editorial: Weigh in on importance of urban forest

Trees are a vital part of Oak Bay's character; have your say in how they're managed

As Oak Bay continues work on its Urban Forest Strategy, residents are urged to contribute their feedback through a community survey. The information will be used in conjunction with other sources to create draft recommendations about how Oak Bay should approach its urban forest – or trees – moving forward.

While at 33 per cent, Oak Bay’s tree canopy coverage is good compared to some other jurisdictions of a similar age, many of those trees are older and require, or will require, replacing. Pressures also come from development; while new trees often replace those removed for construction, they may take years to get to the same size.

“Oak Bay’s trees, green spaces and natural areas are a key part of our community’s identity but as our trees age and our community develops there will be changes in our urban forest,” notes Chris Hyde-Lay, parks manager for Oak Bay.

Increased canopy cover – the percentage of ground covered by leaf canopy – is one of Oak Bay’s objectives, Hyde-Lay says, suggesting greater tree replacement and a proactive tree planting program for both public and private land as important to achieving that goal.

“Given the changes we expect to see over the next 100 years, we need a plan to guide what we can do now to ensure that Oak Bay’s urban forest is a legacy for the next generation,” Hyde-Lay said.

A healthy urban forest is valuable on many levels. Not only is it a high-level indictor for human and environmental health, but it’s also key to the aesthetic values of the community. With that comes economic implications as parks and streetscape are among the key features that draw people to want to live and visit here.

In short, our trees are a vital part of what makes Oak Bay, well, Oak Bay.

How important are Oak Bay’s trees to you? And how should the municipality approach the future of its trees?   Let the district know. Your voice is crucial to the discussion.