Water the trees: Park Board makes public appeal for help during unprecedented drought

Park Board water trees

Park Board Chair John Coupar called on the public and on businesses to help water trees during the ongoing drought. Watering a tree is exempt from the current stage 3 restrictions and it is encouraged by the City. During a press conference on August 20th, Coupar provided an update on the steps that have been taken by Park Board in their work to keep trees alive.

Approximately 2,000 tree bags have been deployed around the City of Vancouver as a new initiative by Park Board. A full bag of water is slowly released over the course of 7 to 9 hours. Coupar asked the public and business to help them out and to fill up the bags with water. As well, an appeal was made to help water trees, especially young trees that are under stress by getting water to the tree by using a garden hose or by giving trees a bucket or two of water. Some trees are visibly under severe stress, have wilting leaves and need immediate attention. These actions are needed in order to protect the City’s urban canopy.

There are approximately 140,000 street trees in Vancouver. There are another 300,000 trees in parks. Coupar noted that it’s a big job to keep these very valuable trees alive. He suggested that watering trees can be a learning experience for families and that it could be way to help get kids involved. If people see trees in need of help in front of their house or business, Coupar appealed for public assistance in watering these trees.

There are currently 5 water trucks deployed, doing double shifts around the City. The number of slow release water bags is limited and the City has another 500 still to go out. These bags are also being deployed in other municipalities in the region and on Vancouver Island. Park Board staff are refilling the bags on approximately a one week cycle; this is one of the reasons why they have called on additional help. Young street trees tend to be under the most stress, as older trees have deeper roots. Before Park Board staff refill the water bags, they also water the trees roots directly.

A significant number of Vancouver’s street trees are non-native species. Many deciduous trees from Eastern Canada and from Continental Europe have been planted over the past century. A native tree cover can be found in the central and northeast part of Stanley Park or on the North Shore; native trees would be more drought tolerant. Local soil conditions and topography can also increase the impacts from drought (for example, well-drained sandy soils on sloped streets). A number of species such as Magnolias and Tulip Trees also receive additional stress from dry conditions. The street trees in Vancouver not only have to survive dry summers, but they also need to be able to tolerate heavy rains and waterlogged conditions. If people see a tree in need, then they can do their part and help out by watering it.

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