Urban Forest Master Plan

The urban forest plays an important role in our community.

An urban forest includes all of a community's trees, shrubs and groundcover and the soils in which they grow. Parks, natural areas, boulevards, and residential gardens are examples of some of the many and diverse treed areas that make up the urban forest on public and private lands.

In addition to their beauty, trees provide peaceful environments for citizens to enjoy. Trees protect people from the weather, provide privacy, buffer sounds, and create homes for wildlife. They also reduce energy bills by shading and cooling homes in summer. People often become personally attached to trees that they or loved ones have planted; and many trees are planted as living memorials.

Consultation

In 2009, the City of Victoria began developing an Urban Forest Master Plan. The plan sets out a vision, goals and strategy for the management of Victoria's urban forest for the next 50 years.

The plan's development involved considerable public input from January – June 2009, which included consultation with a community-based project committee, open houses, online surveys, meetings with community associations, and discussions with the Urban Development Institute and the development community in Victoria.

A fact sheet was developed to explain what an urban forest is, its benefits, and some of the challenges that Victoria's urban forest faces in the future.

City staff were consulted as the urban forest impacts a variety of municipal services including areas of planning and development, engineering, sustainability and parks.

The Urban Forest Master Plan builds on the City's Official Community Plan's urban forest goals.

The Plan

In February 2013, Victoria City Council approved the Urban Forest Master Plan [PDF - 5.3 MB].

The plan's four goals include: 

  1. Develop and maintain strong community-wide support for the urban forest.
  2. Protect, enhance and expand Victoria's urban forest.
  3. Design and manage the urban forest to maximize watershed health, biodiversity, and conservation of sensitive ecosystems.
  4. Maximize the community benefit from the urban forest in all neighbourhoods.

The Urban Forest Master Plan includes considerable information about urban forestry best practices. Many of the recommendations and strategies are based on established programs in municipalities such as Saanich, Vancouver, Nanaimo, Seattle and Portland.

Vision

The Urban Forest Master Plan paints a picture of the City's ideal urban forest, 50 years into the future. This long-term vision recognizes that the urban forest we plant today will be the urban forest of that future.

In 2060, Victoria's homes and businesses lie within a stunning urban forest that is healthy, diverse, and abundant in all parts of the city. Treed environments are valued as an integral part of this vibrant, livable and sustainable community: supporting biodiversity and watershed health; enhancing neighbourhoods; and creating places for activity, enjoyment and relaxation. Victoria's urban forest exemplifies sound and innovative practice and community stewardship.

Recommendations

The Urban Forest Master Plan identifies 26 recommended actions for the improved management of trees on public and private lands over the next 50 years. Some of the recommendations are available here.

The City of Victoria currently operates an approximate $1 million urban forest program. The Urban Forest Master Plan will not impact this budget for the next 5 – 10 years. The plan will provide focus for the City's urban forest program as well as the planning and operational work of a number of City departments.

Role of the Urban Forest

With approximately 150,000 trees in Victoria, our urban forest plays an important role. Victoria's urban forest:

  • Defines the character of Victoria in many locations both on public and private lands; key character defining examples include Beacon Hill Park, Cook Street Village, the Rocklands neighbourhood, and the Shelbourne Street corridor.
  • Provides essential urban habitat for a wide range of city-living animal, bird and insect species.
  • Plays an important role in the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change and extreme weather including the provision of shade, a buffer for high winds, and helping to manage erosion.
  • Balances the impacts of urban development including the quality of watershed health and urban biodiversity.
  • Helps increase real estate values of homes and encourages customers to linger and shop at local businesses. (Each tree is estimated to be worth at least $2,000. This means the value of trees on City lands is more than $80 million.)
  • Has the opportunity to provide food for Victoria residents. A growing number of public trees are fruit and edible nut trees.

It is important to note that there can be conflict between trees and the built environment. This can include the blocking of sun to gardens and solar collectors, trees that fail and result in property damage, leaf drop and tree sap, and bird/animal droppings from trees. One of the objectives of the Urban Forest Master Plan is to reduce the number, severity and cost to the City of these conflicts through more effective management, planning and design.

The Urban Forest Master Plan provides a “roadmap” to help guide the City of Victoria and its residents to invest in and maintain the urban forest for the future.

Next Steps

City Parks staff are currently reviewing the Plan's 26 recommended actions to see how best they can be incorporated into work plans in the short and long-term.

One recommendation that is currently underway is the development of an online inventory of all trees on City lands. To be completed later this year, the tree inventory will play a key role in the planning and maintenance of Victoria's urban forest, and will help make many of the other recommended actions possible.