Forty more trees are lining Oak Bay’s streets this year, including 26 Garry oaks.
Every year the municipality takes stock of its 10,000 trees on public lands. Those that are dead, diseased and dying are removed, and new ones are planted in their place. In 2018, 77 trees were removed while 117 were planted, resulting in a net gain of 40 trees.
“It’s a very average number, and we plan to double it next year,” said parks services manager Chris Hyde-Lay. “We’ve identified all of the available planting sites in the municipality, and there’s quite a bit of opportunity for additional trees to be planted.”
After trees are planted — typically during winter months — Oak Bay has two crews that handle watering and monitoring. Trees on non-irrigated boulevards are usually cared for for around five years, Hyde-Lay said.
“Where we’re very fortunate in Oak Bay is that the soil profile, for the most part, is exceptionally good,” Hyde-Lay said. “We also have wide boulevards that lend themselves to being able to give the tree a lot of soil volume for it to be able to sustain itself and live a long, natural life. It’s not a harsh urban environment like you find in so many areas. All you have to do is go downtown and see how tough a tree has it, or even along Oak Bay Avenue for that matter.”
Oak Bay’s canopy cover has been shrinking in recent years, something Hyde Lay hopes to reverse. One of the issues in projecting future canopy cover, however, is private land. Permits are issued for the removal of trees on private property, however, the municipality is not able to adequately track any replacements, with the exception of protected trees.
Hyde-Lay says that even though they aren’t required to, residents should consider planting more trees on their own land, especially large ones such as Garry oaks. Citing reasons such as storm interception, pavement longevity and wildlife attraction, Hyde-Lay said trees are worthwhile investments.