Oak Bay plants new program for National Tree Day

Tree canopy grows from final wishes of community association founder

There are two solutions to solving the climate crisis, stop polluting, and plant a lot of trees.

The Community Association of Oak Bay has partnered with Oak Bay’s department of Parks Recreation and Culture with a goal to plant 5,000 trees on private property by 2045. That would enhance the Oak Bay canopy cover by 40 per cent.

To start, the community association and District have created Grow the Oaks in Oak Bay program. They are launching it in conjunction with National Tree Day on Sept. 25.

The first 50 homeowners to register can get a Garry oak for just $50. Otherwise, the fund will match a homeowner’s $100 donation. It was inspired in part by the death of Jill Croft, who succumbed to cancer last November. She co-founded of the Community Association of Oak Bay with her husband, former Oak Bay councillor Tom Croft, in 2008. The campaign is part of the Jill Croft Memorial Urban Forest Legacy Fund, which has almost raised $6,000 already.

READ MORE: Over than two dozen Garry oaks planted in Oak Bay

“When she was ill, we revisited her will and there was a request to plant a tree for each year of her life, which is 71,” Croft said. “I said, ‘Well, let’s start with 12.’”

But once the community association learned of this, it took action, with a goal of hitting 71, and then some.

“We have enough money right now to plant 60,” said fellow community association member Rick Marshall.

It’s not quite at the same level as the City of Victoria, which just committed to planting 5,000 trees by the end of 2020 as part of a global campaign launched by the United Nations. Nor is Oak Bay at the same level in terms of municipal resources.

The Grow the Oaks in Oak Bay program is patterned after the successful LEAF program (local enhancement and appreciation of forests) which helps property owners in Toronto, Ajax and the York Region to plant native trees and shrubs at a subsidized price. Likewise, the Grow the Oaks in Oak Bay is a sweet deal. You can’t just walk into a local garden store or nursery and find six-foot tall Garry oaks ready to plant.

READ MORE: Victoria takes up United Nations challenge to plant 5,000 trees by 2020

“When you do find potted or young Garry oaks at this stage, they are not cheap,” said Oak Bay Manager of Parks Services Chris Hyde-Lay. “We were lucky to get these Garry oaks from a nursery closing in Duncan.”

In fact, because of Garry oak trees’ resilience, they are projected to be among the better adapted species for the coming warming and droughts that Vancouver Island will soon know as normal. Because of that, Hyde-Lay anticipates an increase in demand for Garry oaks specifically.

At the moment, the Garry Oak Meadow Preservation Society is also working hard, planting thousands of Garry oak acorns per year and making those young Garry oaks available to municipalities.

Oak Bay is famous for its tree canopy, which is a challenge to retain despite new standards in development and tree removal permits. In 2018, 77 trees were removed while 117 were planted, resulting in a net gain of 40 trees.

To get a Garry oak in your yard, contact Hyde-Lay at chyde-lay@oakbay.ca or by phone at 250-592-7275. To donate to the Jill Croft Memorial Urban Forest Legacy Fund, visit www.caob.ca or contact oakbayconnector@gmail.com.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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