Hikers, explorers and nature lovers may notice crews cutting down trees in Mount Douglas Park this month as part of a planned dead tree removal effort in preparation for the construction of a new pedestrian bridge in the park.
Starting on March 8, Saanich parks staff will begin the process of removing nine dead dead grand fir trees near Douglas Creek – the site of the 36-foot-long bridge set to be installed. Each of the trees was identified as hazardous during a tree assessment the district conducted in May 2020, explained Megan Catalano, communications manager for the district.
“The dead trees need to be removed prior to the bridge work in order to meet WorkSafeBC regulations as they are located within striking distance of the proposed bridge location,” she said.
The district’s policy for managing hazardous trees stipulates that staff don’t regularly inspect municipal trees – instead, problematic trees are reported by residents or evaluated ahead of construction, said Jason Clarke, parks supervisor of urban forestry and natural areas for Saanich.
In this case, the assessment was spurred by the upcoming construction of the new Douglas Creek bridge, he explained. A certified arborist assessed the site and identified nine trees that posed a safety risk for construction workers. Then, staff developed a mitigation plan and consulted environmental experts about the most appropriate time to remove the trees
While construction of the new bridge won’t begin until the summer, parks staff chose to begin removing the trees on March 8 because the felling needs to occur before bird nesting season, Clarke explained.
The task will likely take about four days and there may be some minor trail interruptions, he said, noting that staff will be present to direct park-users and keep the work site clear.
He added that most of the trees to be removed are grand firs – a species that has been notably on decline on the Island. Finding dead firs will likely become “the new norm” in the region, he said.
Clarke noted that once the dead trees are felled, they’ll be left in the park because, as they decompose, logs become a valuable part of the forest floor ecosystem. Come the fall, parks staff will replace the trees three to one with Douglas firs and western red cedars.