I felt sick today strolling past a block of new development on Kings at Quadra, which apparently requires the entire row of big old shade trees lining the street to be removed. The volume and pace of loss of big trees for development is devastating, and for generations to come.
On a property as large as that one, there is no good reason why those trees which are only a foot or two from the sidewalk, could not have been saved, and the development set back several feet. Developers and the construction industry are not impoverished – but our city will be if we let greed lead the way.
Although the city is planting trees, they will not be lining that street anymore. As long as development is permitted within feet of the sidewalk, we will not be experiencing the neighbourhood ‘walkability’, sun and wind protection and clean, cool air, provided by those giants. Is the city planting any really large trees? If so, we will begin to see the fruits of that in 75-100 years. Family members in construction tell us that nothing is now being built to last longer than 50 years. If the trees are torn off a property every time it is redeveloped, that means subsequent generations will never live with trees older than 50 years.
Large trees are our main defence against climate change, removing dust and pollutants, giving oxygen and cooling the surroundings. Every time we lose one, let alone a whole block, it’s bringing a bit more desert to the heart of Victoria, decreasing the air quality and increasing the heat of the town centre. I don’t see anyone enjoying a stroll along the glaring, gritty cement wind tunnels between high-rise buildings downtown. I’m not sure what is meant by walkability – but I follow the paths of large trees and boulevards, which are rapidly vanishing.