City of Parksville dealing with large number of dead Western red cedar trees

Dead Western red cedars in Woodland Park, Parksville. // City of Parksville photo.
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Western red cedar trees have been dying off for years and the Parksville parks department wants to allocate more funds to removing the dead ones. 

The trees are declining across the Pacific Northwest region due to long, hot summers brought on by climate change, according to Guy Martin, manager of parks and facilities for the city. 

“We’ve seen losses of the Western red cedars greater than 50 per cent of the existing canopy,” he said.

Martin said the parks department is spending a large portion of its budget removing dead trees and asked council for an increase in its funding. Removing the trees is important for public safety because they tend to die from the top down and that can pose a falling risk to residents.

“The object is to not keep something that’s dying — this is to deal with something that’s dead,” Martin said, when asked by Coun. Al Greir whether it is worth allocating funds to keep the trees alive. 

Lack of water weakens the shallow‐rooted tree over the course of a dry summer. After a few summers of drought, the finer roots are lost and the tree loses its ability to take in moisture, Martin said.

He said the department is asking for $50,000 a year for the next three years to deal with the dying cedars. The new funds would allow the department to spend more time and resources managing the city’s urban forest, which has been neglected for years due to cedar management, according to Martin. 

He also proposed the city create an urban forest strategy that would plant new trees, manage the existing ones and encourage public engagement over the next 15 – 20 years. Young trees take decades and a lot of care to reach maturity, but the effort is worth it, Martin said. 

“Mature trees deliver benefits to the community that cannot be replaced easily or quickly,” he said.

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