Millard Park is one of many in Courtenay featuring trails and walkways (City of Courtenay photo)

Courtenay moves on creating urban forest strategy

Courtenay is on its way to having an urban forest strategy.

The city will issue a Request for Proposal that will, among other things, create a heritage tree list; establishment of a city-wide tree canopy target; and a better understanding of the distribution and rarity of coastal Douglas fir trees as part of the rare Coastal Douglas fir ecological Biogeoclimatic Zone.

The strategy is a tool that outlines the extent and general condition of a community’s tree resources on private and public lands.

It identifies target locations for replanting; provides information to the public and council on the value of the urban forest, including economic and green infrastructure value; identify areas of wildfire risk; and tries to engage the public and partner organizations in each contributing to the success of the urban forest.

The issue of an urban forest strategy came up last year when the city worked on its controversial new tree protection bylaw.

Developers argued that such a strategy should be done before the protection bylaw. The environmental sector and the general public also wanted a strategy completed.

Last September, city council asked staff to report back on the estimated time and cost of drafting an urban forest strategy.

Staff then issued a call for Expressions of Interest to conduct an urban forest strategy in three distinct phases: Inventory; community visioning and goal setting; and action planning.

Six submissions were received ranging in cost from $47,000 to $210,000, and a time frame from three months to one year.

Nancy Gothard, the city’s environmental planner, said in her written report that staff believe it’s reasonable to budget $75,000 for the work, and allow one year for completion.

Counc. Erik Eriksson said he believed a forest strategy should include the entire Comox Valley.

“Courtenay is not the only part of the valley that has trees,” he said. “It’s important (to be) coordinated with the rest of the Comox Valley.”

Courtenay Mayor Larry Jangula said proceeding with an urban forest strategy is “a very positive step forward”.

But, he added, “I don’t want our taxpayers paying for the job for other communities.”