A group of Burkeville residents gathered in Templeton Park Friday night to mourn the loss of two 50-year-old trees that were taken down this week as part of Vancouver International Airport’s ongoing development in the area.
Thirteen trees in total were cut down as the airport authority plans to build a three-storey cargo facility on green space it owns immediately to the west of the 328-home community on Sea Island. Friday’s vigil was scheduled for 8 p.m. in the place where the trees used to stand.
“All of a sudden on Monday morning we woke up to the sound of chainsaws and all the trees came down,” said Melissa Gervais, who has lived in Burkeville for 22 years, adding that she did not feel well-informed that the tree removal was scheduled to happen.
“In particular, there are these two trees…they were just stunning and such a great source of shade and that’s where everyone hung out. And within four hours they were just decimated.”
Residents say the new development will bring cargo aircraft and associated operations within 300 metres of their backyards and that it’s not just the loss of the 10-acre green space that’s troubling, but the loss of a “vital buffer zone” for noise pollution from the airport.
However, Vancouver Airport Authority says aircraft will come no closer than they do already and are offering to beautify and develop the Templeton corridor for the benefit of the community. In terms of noise mitigation, a YVR spokesperson told the Richmond News last month that the airport has undertaken technical analyses to look at potential impacts of the project.
As part of that, YVR completed a project noise assessment in 2017 that applied Health Canada guidelines and is “fully compliant with Health Canada processes.”
The spokesperson also told the News that the airport, as part of the Templeton corridor design, plans to increase connectivity by improving and expanding the area’s path network to “make it safer, easier and more pleasant to access the Canada Line, Flight Path Par and the Sea Island and Richmond trail and cycling network.” The airport also says that new trees will be planted.
Even still, Gervais feels the ongoing construction might force her family out of a neighbourhood they love.
“The noise has been unbearable…the construction’s going to take three to four years, and we won’t be able to live in our home during that time,” she said.
“This is my dream home…it’s where we want to grow old. We love it here. And this is just making us sick.”
With files from Alan Campbell