Future of park board tree farm up in the air

Board currently considering its options while lease negotiations continue with Metro Vancouver

It’s been a staple of Vancouver Park Board operations for decades but the future of the city’s tree farm seems uncertain.

The farm has been a part of the board’s operations for more than 60 years. It’s been at its current location, a 6.4-hectare plot of land in Campbell Valley Park in Langley, since the 1970s. Before that it was in Cloverdale. The board leases the land from Metro Vancouver and this week staff told commissioners that it looks like the board will have to vacate the property.

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“We’ve been negotiating back and forth over the last several months and it looks like we don’t really have a choice,” Howard Normann, director of parks, told commissioners. “We’ll have to exit from that site. They do want it back.”

He told commissioners that the rent is going up and the board is not able to bring in soil or water.

Non-Partisan Association commissioner John Coupar, whose father worked for the park board for more than 40 years and at one time was responsible for the tree farm, said that he was “quite shocked” by the news and added that he hopes to see the tree farm continue at another location.

The board buys liners — young bare-root trees that are just a year or two old. The liners come in bundles of six to 12 and are planted at the farm.

“Usually we bring them along for about another three to five years depending on the species of trees,” Normann told the Courier.

Once the trees get to be around six to eight centimetres in diameter and two to four metres tall, they are harvested and wrapped for storage. When trees are needed they are brought to the park board’s nursery adjacent to Sunset Community Centre.

 “We usually have four planting crews that will go out and plant those trees,” Normann said, adding that most are destined for city streets.

In recent years, the stock of trees at the farms runs, on average, between 1,600 and 2,300 trees a year. However, when it’s running at full capacity, there can be upwards of 9,000 to 10,000 trees on the farm in different stages of growth.

Normann said that as the city has matured, the demand for street trees has declined.

“Back in the day we had hundreds of blocks of streets that required trees and now we’re pretty much maxed out,” he said. “We’re doing mostly replacements and some newer streets but we’re not doing it like we used to.”

Normann said that the board is currently considering its options while negotiations continue.

“There will always be a need for trees and we’re just evaluating the best way to get those trees,” he said. “But we will no longer be doing the massive planting of say two or three or four thousand trees a year on streets.”

@JessicaEKerr

jkerr@vancourier.com

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