SD46 Gibsons Elementary Tree Removal and Reforestation Project
The School District hosted a virtual information session on Wednesday, March 2nd regarding the planned tree removal at Gibsons Elementary. Secretary-Treasurer Nicholas Weswick, Principal Lynda Brisebois, Manager of Facilities Rob Collison, and Integrated Forestry and Environmental Consultant Bill Lasuta spoke to the need to remove the hazardous trees and shared plans for reforestation of the site. The webinar was advertised broadly, through social media, the district website, and the Coast Reporter website. Additionally, a print brochure with information on the project was hand-delivered to neighbouring properties and signage was posted at the trailheads to the property. Gibsons Elementary parents were also invited to attend the information session via email from Principal Brisebois. A second FAQ document was developed to respond to inquiries that were received during the information session, see below.
The information session was initially scheduled for one hour but due to an initial delay was extended for an additional 15 minutes. Approximately 20 members of the public attended the session. The team had the opportunity to answer about 33 of the 40 items received in the Q&A session, with 4 of the remaining items being suggestions or thanks. Attendees were asked to send any additional or unanswered questions via email, to be considered as part of the FAQ, see below.
Frequently Asked Questions:
The goal of the project is to manage our greenspaces responsibility while ensuring safety for students and the community. The school district wants to retain as many healthy, low-risk trees as possible and replace the felled trees with new stock that is more resilient to today’s climate.
The school district has applied for a permit on February 8, 2022 to cut trees and is adhering to the process required by the Town. A permit was issued on March 14, 2022 by the Town of Gibsons.
In September, 2021, the district hired a professional arborist to assess all trees at Gibsons Elementary School and provide a written report. The report was received in late September and was reviewed by district staff.
In February 2022, the district hired the arborist to act as a consultant/project manager for the tree removal and reforestation project. School district staff shared the plans and consulted with the Gibsons Elementary PAC in early February and again early March.
On February 9, Secretary-Treasurer Weswick advised the Board of Education regarding the tree removal and reforestation plan.
On February 25, a brochure was developed, printed, and hand delivered to neighboring properties., On the same day it was also made available in digital format on the district website. The brochure included information on the public information session scheduled for March 2.
The registration link to the public information session was sent to all families at Gibsons Elementary and was advertised on the Coast Reporter’s website, as well as the district’s website and social media feeds. Additionally, large signage was posted at the trailheads to Gibsons Elementary with information on the project.
On March 2, the district held a public information session.
The School District has been in contact with the Squamish Nation’s Environment Manager – Rights and Title to advise them of the project and honoured their request for additional consultation with a local non-profit. We have also approached local Indigenous cultural contacts to discuss the cultural aspects of assembling students and staff as part of the project.
The expected budget for removal of the high-risk trees is dependent to some extent on the final number of trees to be removed, but we anticipated approximately $30,000 in costs. Although budgeted in the Annual Facilities Grant, we expect to recover at least that amount through the sale of lumber.
The use of proceeds will be considered in consultation with the school and community through the District’s budget process. Although financial benefit is not a motivation for the tree removal, we have a duty to the taxpayer to ensure appropriate stewardship of assets, both natural and financial. Staff will report to the Board about the financial impact of this project and will engage with the public as part of our budget consultation process to plan for the use of any surplus funds.
The School District has not received requests from any neighbouring homeowners to remove these trees. Concern for student and public safety has led to this tree removal and reforestation plan.
A total of 58 trees were reviewed by a consultant who is a Qualified Environmental Professional, Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arborists (ISA) and is Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (TRAQ) as certified under the ISA. The trees were identified as either low, medium, or high risk. 34 trees were deemed high risk and will be removed. There are over 200 trees on the property: high-risk trees account for less than 20% of the trees at Gibsons Elementary.
The School District followed the process as outlined in its purchasing regulation to seek quotes from qualified contractors, including seeking quotes from local vendors.
This process began last year and included consultations with multiple tree services vendors, one of which was an arborist. The concern expressed by the community led us to only remove trees that presented an extreme level of risk to human safety and defer the remainder of the work until we could get a full arborist study and ensure that we weren’t removing more trees than were necessary.
Multiple experts have reviewed this project, including our independent consultants and staff at the Town of Gibsons. Further delays to seek additional opinions will certainly push us into nesting season, leaving uncertainty about how to address the hazard that remains while we wait for the end of that period.
The trees were assessed last in September 2021. The school district hired a consultant with 40 years of experience in Forest Silviculture and Planning to assess and report on the state of the trees. The consultant is a Qualified Environmental Professional, Certified Arbourist with the International Society of Arbourists (ISA) and is Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (TRAQ) as certified under the ISA.
Hazard trees are removed from local parks and crown land when they present a danger to public safety. Recent example at Cliff Gilker Park: https://www.coastreporter.net/local-news/updated-hazard-tree-closes-cliff-gilker-park-4539614
The reforestation plan for the site was developed under the guidance of a consultant who is a Qualified Environmental Professional, Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arborists (ISA) and is Tree Risk Assessment Qualified (TRAQ) as certified under the ISA.
The seedlings selected for reforestation have been sourced from tree stands specifically growing within the same ecological area. Douglas fir has been chosen as a dominant replacement species due to its ability to adapt to increasingly warm temperatures and droughts. The School District will also plant several mature trees and will consider bio-diversity when selecting the species.
The reforestation plan was developed with our consultant. The goal of the 10-1 replanting ratio is to provide a strong opportunity for regeneration, knowing that not all seedlings will survive the reforestation process. Additionally, a young forest will naturally grow thinner over the years. Any seedlings that cannot be used on-site will be planted elsewhere in the Town of Gibsons, in consultation with Town staff.
The reforestation plan to offset this loss will require time to sequester carbon. Different tree species grow at different rates and will absorb C02 differently. Some of the trees identified for removal are already dead, and therefore are no longer absorbing carbon. The district makes significant effort to reduce our C02 output where ever possible, and has invested significantly in solar arrays to manage our impact on the environment.
Yes, this type of consideration was first mentioned at a PAC consultation and the contractors will look for opportunities to support the ecosystem while also considering student and community safety.
With respect to nesting, we have hired an environmental firm who is conducting a nest survey to identify if active bird nests are located within the trees and shrubs that will be removed, as well as the surrounding vegetated areas. The survey will be conducted by a Qualified Environmental Professional (QEP) within four hours of sunrise to coincide with the period of increased bird activity.
According to Environment Canada, the general nesting period in our zone (A1) is predicted to begin on March 30th with the highest nesting intensity beginning on May 14th. The school district intends to remove the hazard trees over Spring Break in order to minimize the impact on our wildlife while also ensuring student safety.