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Nanaimo considering spending about $200,000 to save three trees

Draft staff report shows alternative bridge designs could cost an additional $185,000 to $240,000
Nanaimo city council has asked staff to look at alternative options for a bridge over the Chase River at Harewood Centennial Park as part of the Georgia Greenway pathway project. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo is considering a six-figure cost increase and a delay to the Georgia Greenway project in a bid to save three trees.

Nanaimo city council, at its meeting Monday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, voted to ask staff to find alternatives to the current pathway project plans that would require that a maple and two cottonwoods be cut down in order to build a bridge over Chase River at Harewood Centennial Park.

Resident Greg Sorenson said people in the neighbourhood have concerns about the size of the project and its impact.

“Seeing as it is a greenway, we would like to do a minimum amount of damage to the environment,” he said.

Bill Sims, the city’s senior manager of public works, told council that staff had identified the issue last year and he presented a draft report Monday with three options for bridge design. The report recommends the option that necessitates the most tree-cutting; the other options have greater impacts on the approved project budget, safety, storm access and adjacent private property. Sims said a consultant recommended the first option, which would cost $450,000. The second would cost $690,000 and the third would cost $635,000.

Sims said there are also time pressures to consider.

“We’re kind of running up against the bird-nesting window. April 1 is kind of the deadline where trees need to come down … It’s a gamble to delay things any longer if we want to complete the work this year,” he said.

Coun. Bill Bestwick said he would encourage reducing the planned four-metre width of the bridge. Coun. Jim Kipp said he favours “a reasonable, straight-through bridge, a narrower one, protecting the trees as much as we can, but also looking at planting more trees along that greenway … When we make a decision to save three trees and it’s going to cost us $100,000 or $200,000 more, that doesn’t make a sensible decision for me.”

Sims said there are already plans to plant trees, possibly 16-18.

Coun. Ian Thorpe said “of course we want to save the mature trees but it’s not always that easy,” and credited staff for looking into other factors for council’s consideration.

Coun. Jerry Hong said he thinks cyclists will understand if the city chooses to build a narrower bridge, and said he would be in favour of delaying the Georgia Greenway’s construction if necessary.

“Being a year off on this project, I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “This is a neighbourhood plan – if the neighbourhood isn’t happy and if it does call for that, let’s take it back and consult with them and get it right.”

Hong made a motion to defer a decision; it passed with Mayor Bill McKay and Coun. Diane Brennan opposed.

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