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Tree protection bylaw for Gibsons

Tree protection bylaw for Gibsons

Town of Gibsons’ elected officials wasted no time giving two readings to a bylaw to protect the community’s existing trees at its July 7 council meeting. The draft of the bylaw was first introduced to the public at a committee meeting earlier that same day.
The bylaw identifies 11 native species that property owners would be prohibited from cutting, removing or moving without a Town permit. Getting a permit will require payment of a fee and a statement of the rationale for the proposed tree cutting.
Until the new bylaw can be enacted, council asked Town staff to seek voluntary public compliance with the new regulation’s intent, which is to safeguard trees as natural assets that perform a variety of positive functions for the community’s environment. During committee debate, Mayor Bill Beamish expressed concerns that the Town was at risk of losing trees in the time between the initial bylaw readings and final adoption. He said that this could occur if property owners decide to clear their land of trees before the bylaw is in force. With council also requesting public consultation before additional readings of the bylaw are considered, adoption will likely be delayed until this fall at the earliest.
Staff recommended the bylaw as part of the Town’s efforts to protect and preserve its urban forest.
In addition, staff are suggesting amendments to Gibsons’ subdivision and stormwater management bylaws to allow for wider road dedications to allow for trees to be retained or to be planted. Another component could see Gibsons establishing a National Healing Forest as part of the White Tower Park storm water retention pond project. On July 3, the Town was awarded $955,000 for work on this project from the federal and provincial governments. (See also page 8.)
In committee discussion related to Gibsons becoming one of the first BC communities to have a healing forest project, Councillor David Croal said, “I feel like it is Christmas Day and we just received a wonderful present.” Croal believes that a healing forest is a unique opportunity to preserve and incorporate urban tree retention with the Town’s natural asset and storm water management systems. He also noted that such a project would work hand in glove with First Nations reconciliation efforts.
(According to the website, a national healing forest is a forest, garden or green space dedicated as a place of healing, learning, sharing and reflection on Canadian history and the legacy of First Nations residential schools.)
A bylaw that did not proceed quickly at the meeting was one related to proposed control of invasive and noxious weeds. The town’s planning committee recommended that council provide first and second readings to that bylaw. Councillor Annemarie De Andrade said that she felt that an education campaign should be developed in conjunction with the proposed regulations. In referring the bylaw back to committee for further review, she also asked that the plant species listed in the bylaw be expanded and that plans for proper disposal of each type of species be included.
Connie Jordison

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