The following letter was written by Port Coquitlam resident Nancy H. Furness

Port Coquitlam residents witnessed a number of healthy, mature trees being removed from Veterans Park and Leigh Square this week, with more still to come down. Many passersby expressed shock, dismay, and even anxiety at seeing the big trees fall.

In addition to enhancing Port Coquitlam’s small-town charm, these urban trees provided a welcome habitat for birds and other small wildlife species. Seniors could often be seen resting on the benches and chatting under the shade of the flowering cherry trees along Shaughnessy Street. Trees buffer city noises, calm our senses, and are good for our mental health.

Healthy, mature trees also provide valuable ecosystem services including helping to cool our cities during increasingly hot weather and summer heat domes. During wet weather and atmospheric rivers, the same trees help to manage stormwater run-off and mitigate the risk of flooding. Trees produce life-giving oxygen, take up carbon, and filter out air pollutants.

photo supplied Nancy H. Furness

Twenty-one trees in total are slated for removal in this portion of the project. Approximately 45 replacement trees will be planted.

However, it’s worth noting that urban trees reach their most productive point in terms of providing ecological services between the ages of 60 to 150 years, depending on the tree species and health. Many of the trees which are being removed are just coming into their most productive years.

High level public consultation was carried out on the development plan, but confusion and lack of clarity remained with respect to tree retention. Environmental groups were excluded as stakeholders in the consultation process and information was not made publicly available regarding which trees were to be removed. Too many of these decisions are currently being made behind closed doors and too many voices are being silenced.

As we continue to grapple with the effects of both a global pandemic and the climate crisis, retention of healthy, mature urban trees is more important than ever. Port Coquitlam mayor and council, it’s time to stop paving paradise.

Nancy H. Furness
on behalf of Wondrous Tree Fellowship
Port Coquitlam

Project to benefit city ‘for many years to come’

City representatives previously touted the project as necessary to revitalize Port Coquitlam’s downtown and to create: “safe and welcoming spaces for visitors and residents of all ages to stroll and relax.”

“The investment we’re making in our downtown will pay off dividends for our residents, businesses and our local economy for many years to come,” stated Coun. Dean Washington in a press release.

The city decided to fell the trees in March to: “avoid nesting season and minimize the impact on birds.”

The 21 trees being chopped are set to be replaced by 45 new trees.

The trees being removed are not viable for replating due to health and size, according to the city.

The project also involves having the cenotaph centred in the forthcoming central plaza in Veterans Park, a change lauded by Royal Canadian Legion Branch 133 President Drew Lydiard.

“We are pleased with the efforts being made to bring more prominence to this important tribute to veterans,” Lydiard stated in a press release.