Stanley Park managers have some tough decisions to make
BY JULIA McKiNNELL • In the past, when a tree has fallen inside Vancouver’s 405hectare city forest known as Stanley Park, it’s either been left on the ground to rot or graded for value and sold at auction. But what happens when as many as 3,000 trees hit the
ground in a single windstorm as was the case on the night of Dec. 14?
Joyce Courtney, Vancouver Park Board’s communications manager, describes the damage as looking like a clear-cut. “In 41 hectares, the majority of the forest is on the ground—that’s significant,” says Dwight Yochim, director of Professional Practice and Forest Stewardship in B.C. With this many trees down, fire hazard is a “real danger,” says Courtney. Leaving the entire lot to rot isn’t an option.
Western red cedar, as well as second-growth hemlock and Douglas fir, are the predominant casualties, said Courtney. The hemlock and fir are replants “from a long, long time ago,” she explains. The area was logged at one point for fir and hem-
lock at a time when these two were the most desirable of the three species. Tastes have changed, however, and it’s now the Western red cedar that earns top dollar. “There’s some big, big stuff in there,” says a former log buyer who doesn’t want his name used. “There are some 100-ft. trees. With the Western red cedar, if they make a grade of a D or F, depending on length and diameter [each] are probably worth around $10,000.”
The fate of the trees is “the question of the week,” says Vancouver Park Board chair Ian Robertson. “We know that some of these trees are worth money, but how much? We don’t know yet. It’s going to be a very tricky process.” Robertson’s office has been flooded with requests from various parties, such as native bands asking for cedar to carve totem poles and logging companies offering to clean up in exchange for timber. Adding to the complexity is the little-known fact that “technically, Stanley Park is federal ground,” says Robertson. Stanley Park was leased to the city of Vancouver by the federal government for a 99-year term that coincidentally expires this year.
“Obviously First Nations are interested in some of the cedar,” says Courtney. “We’ve had people wanting to build the next Canada Pavilion at the 2010 Olympics from Stanley Park wood. We’ve had people say we should build a horse barn in the park. Some people say we should cut it up in chunks and sell it to pay for reforestation, kind of like Mount St. Helens when they sold ash in little jars. And some say it should go to the highest bidder and let the lumber companies go crazy and give us lots of money so we can put it back into Stanley Park.” “There are cultural groups,” adds Robertson, “saying we should sell the wood for special ceremonial masks for 2010. First
Nations are concerned that some of the root balls that have been uprooted are on traditional cultural territory. Burial grounds might have been unearthed.”
Robertson has already had one meeting with Ric Slaco, vice-president and chief forester of Interfor, a lumber company that sells to Japan, North America and Europe. “Our company was the first to put up its hand and say, ‘Gee, we’d like to help,’ ” says Slaco. “The park had a dilemma. They had all these trees blown down and they didn’t know what to do. Our company is a dominant player in the manufacture of cedar. Western red cedar is a highly prized wood. It really only grows on the West Coast.” Yet, says Slaco, “the material could potentially be worth very little. Park officials really didn’t have a great sense that there was a tremendous amount of value in the trees that were there.” So, if the logs aren’t worth much, Interfor is offering to help out of the goodness of its heart? “Oh, there’s no profit in this for us,” says Slaco. “We don’t have to do this.”
“Well, it’s interesting,” says Robertson. “I’ve heard that perspective but part of me wonders, ‘Well, who did I hear that from? Is that potentially a possible partner trying to downplay the value of the timber?’ ” Meanwhile, the Park Board is soliciting donations on its website. “There are groups saying, ‘Why are you raising all this money? The value of the timber will more than make
up for replanting and clean-up costs,’ ” says Robertson. To make matters worse, he adds, one of the park commissioners went on the radio to raise funds and said, “Give a tree for Christmas.” “It was well-intentioned, but I think we should have thought it through more carefully,” says Robertson. “Last report, we’ve raised close to $100,000 in cash. How will we know if we need all that?” Nl
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