A tree blossoms in Victoria, across from the Legislature building. (Advocate file photo).

Victoria may lose cherry blossoms as city pushes ahead with tree management plan

Victoria’s trademark cherry blossoms may be lost in a few years as the city goes ahead with a plan to replace aging non-native trees with native species.

City councillors in the B.C. capital this week approved a spending increase for Victoria’s Urban Forest Master Plan, which one councillor said could result in a loss of a number of flower-bearing trees in the city.

Coun. Geoff Young said while he understands the need for tree maintenance, he is concerned after his colleagues approved a spending increase of $868,000 to a program that already spends $1.7 million a year.

“So many of our streets in our suburban neighbourhoods have been lined with these trees, which bear beautiful blossoms in the spring. And they are enormously picturesque and then the blossoms fall off almost like a snowfall in the spring,” he said.

Young said he is sad with the push towards native species at the expense of non-native ones like the city’s famous cherry trees.

While he doesn’t want the city to be overrun with non-native species, at the same time he said a modest use of some of those plants is quite acceptable and adds a lot to quality of life.

Young said he wants to see the city have a discussion before moving ahead with the policy.

But Mayor Lisa Helps said a combination of development and climate change is starting to take a toll on the trees so it is “past time” for the city to make a significant investment in its urban forest.

“This is the reality of climate change,” she said. “Our non-native trees, including some of the cherry blossom trees, are some of the most stressed as a result of climate change.”

As the non-native trees die, they will be replaced with native species that are drought-tolerant, she said, adding that the city will be taking a more “ecosystem-based approach.

“We have to deal in reality, not in fanciful thinking,” she said.

Victoria’s overall tree canopy coverage when last measured in 2013 was approximately 18 per cent, and the city hopes to increase this to 40-45 per cent over the next few decades.

“The flowering trees — they are beautiful. They are absolutely gorgeous. You can look down some streets in the springtime and it is absolutely gorgeous,” Helps said. “And a large part of that will remain.”

But Victoria won’t change overnight, she said.

“Over the next 30 to 40 years … we have to be realistic in terms of meeting the very real climate change that is here,” she said, adding that this means replacing non-native trees with more drought-tolerant species.

Coun. Laurel Collins said she hopes the city can both protect the cherry trees and increase canopy cover.

She said she plans on talking to Victoria’s director of parks to see if there is a possibility of maintaining the iconic cherry trees and the legacy that surrounds them.

“The wonderful thing about our cherry trees is that there’s a history in Victoria where the Japanese community actually fundraised and donated these trees,” she said.

“So it is important that … when they do get sick or need to be replaced that we are thinking about that history.”

— by Hina Alam in Vancouver

Just Posted

Trudeau seeks to right his campaign in Toronto as Scheer heads to Maritimes

OTTAWA — Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is in Toronto today, hoping to… Continue reading

Canadian retail sales up 0.4 per cent in July, first increase in three months

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says retail sales rose 0.4 per cent in… Continue reading

Hudson’s Bay Co. closing its 15 Hudson’s Bay stores in the Netherlands

TORONTO — Hudson’s Bay Co. is closings its 15 Hudson’s Bay stores… Continue reading

Alberta man sentenced to 23.5 years for sexually abusing his three daughters

EDMONTON — A central Alberta man who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting… Continue reading

Red Deerians air their opinions on the Justin Trudeau in brownface scandal

Does the two-decade-ago time frame make it more forgivable?

Your community calendar

Wednesday Central Alberta Historical Society annual general meeting is 6 p.m. at… Continue reading

Canada’s women’s basketball team to begin Olympic qualifying process

EDMONTON — Two-time Olympian Kim Gaucher and WNBA rookie Bridget Carleton headline… Continue reading

Canada climbs FIFA world soccer rankings, moves past CONCACAF rival Panama

The numbers are suddenly looking better for Canada. The Canadian men rose… Continue reading

Greta Hodgkinson to retire as principal dancer at National Ballet of Canada

TORONTO — It’s the end of an era at the National Ballet… Continue reading

‘We can move on with our lives:’ Alberta parents acquitted in death of toddler

LETHBRIDGE — An Alberta mother and father who treated their ill son… Continue reading

Trudeau asks Canada to look to his current, not past, actions on race

Justin Trudeau’s privileged upbringing created a “massive blind spot” when it came… Continue reading

Appeal court rules 3-2 in favour of law that slashed Toronto city council

TORONTO — Ontario’s top court has upheld a provincial law that slashed… Continue reading

Most Read