Cherry blossoms not in danger! Mayor says internal misunderstanding to blame for tree controversy


WATCH: Over the last two days we have been following the controversy regarding the cherry trees that erupted after a Victoria city councillor warned a city policy to only plant native species could see the iconic flowering trees eventually disappear. Tuesday City hall is changing their tune. Luisa Alvarez reports.

The thought of losing the iconic cherry blossom trees that transform Victoria each spring caused public outrage. It started after councillor Geoff Youngs word of caution about the city’s implementation of a policy that would only plant native species to replace dying and diseased non-native trees like the cherry blossom.

“I think a lot of people like the cherry blossoms under the current policy if nothing is changed that will end,” Councillor Geoff Young told CHEK News Feb. 24th.

READ MORE: Councillor warns iconic cherry blossoms will be phased out because of city’s tree management plan.

Mayor Lisa Helps defended that policy Sunday when she spoke to CHEK News but admits she may have spoken too soon.

“Probably what I should have said to you on Sunday was sorry talk to our director of Parks and recreation cause he is actually the one that is responsible for maintaining the urban forest inventory,” said Helps.

Now, Helps says after receiving a detailed brief from parks staff Monday that the cherry blossoms aren’t entirely on the chopping block.

“I think just some confusion not malintent on anyone’s part,” said Helps.

Helps says what will be planted to replace aging and diseased cherry blossom trees or any-non native species will be determined on a case by case basis.

“Our staff’s policy is the right tree in the right place,” said Helps.

Despite tree expert, Dr.Patrick von Aderkas’ opinion that Victoria’s changing climate is not threatening the cherry trees more than native species Mayor Helps stands firm that it is.

READ MORE: UVic Expert refutes mayor’s claim that climate change is putting stress on Victoria Cherry blossoms.

“If the professor wants to come out and go along with our parks department so he can see the challenges that they are facing that’s fine I’m going to trust the people that are doing the work more than someone who is studying it,” said Helps.

Councillor Laurel Collins says when a cherry tree needs to be replaced staff will take careful consideration to determine what type of tree will go in its place. Emphasizing that the blossoms will be preserved where possible.

“The things that the parks departments are looking are soil quality, wind exposure, sun exposure, the availability of water so they are going to make the decisions to make sure a tree is viable in that location and they will continue to plant cherry trees where they are going to thrive,” said Collins.

Collins adds that she along with councillor Jeremy Loveday will be presenting council with a motion to clarify that there is no intention to phase out the cherry trees and to make sure staff knows they are directed to plant cherry trees where they are considered viable.

As part of the motion, they will also direct Mayor Helps to write a letter to the Victoria Nikkei Society expressing the city’s gratitude for the cherry blossoms and making sure they understand the city’s position with the policy.

Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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