The April 16 Agassiz-Harrison Observer reported that the Harrison Hot Springs Village Council plans to improve the safety of Rendall Park by removing eleven of the older maples. How sad!
As Ann Ehret clearly pointed out in her April 16 Earth Day letter, the more diverse the plant world, the healthier the ecosystem. Mature bigleaf maple’s calcium-rich bark hosts a whole microenvironment of mosses, ferns and lichens whose mass is equal to or greater than the tree’s own leaves. Their huge leaf canopy sequesters carbon, provides shade, reduces erosion & water pollution and improves air quality.
Safety seems to be the number one consideration of all organizations in the 21st century. Liability insurance, at sky-high rates, is required for even the lowliest. But lets put things into perspective.
Scouring the web for tree related deaths in BC reveals one motorist’s death in March 2015 by a tree tumbling onto the road near Christina Lake, a camper in Wells Gray Park in 2013 by a tree falling on her tent and 2 young hikers in Kootenay National Park by a tree sliding down a slope onto the trail in 2003. Compare that to the ICBC 5-year (2009-2013) stats for motor vehicle accidents of 314 people killed annually. Can we cut down (on) motor vehicles?
How about wind speed? It takes winds in excess of 70-90 km/h to break branches, 90-100 for limbs, 100-120 for prevalent breakage and 120-140 for uprooting according to Environment Canada. How often do 100 –120 km/h winds occur during tourist season?
Indeed, it is sad that past pruning in Rendall Park’s maples destroyed their beauty and safety rather than enhancing both. WorkSafe BC states the decision to retain a tree must include worker and/or public safety, the type of activity occurring around the tree, site factors and tree condition, and wildlife habitat values. Even one accident is one too many. It seems the Village has no option but to remove trees assessed as dangerous.
Instead of replanting with non-native, small stature trees, the Village should consider native trees that are ideally adapted to our climate. Species to consider are red alder, cascara, black cottonwood or even bigleaf maple, a unique tree restricted to the south west coast of British Columbia. Interspersing a variety of native shrubs throughout the park – red flowering current, salmonberry, twinberry- would attract hummingbirds as well as deter blowing sand. Such plantings should soon provide shade for picnickers and restore the diversity about to be lost in the name of safety!
Harrison Hot Springs