Calling themselves the Kelowna Tree Protectors, a group gathered near a vacant lot near Knox Mountain, Monday morning (Jan. 16), to express their saddness over saplings being cut down.
The lot is being cleared to prepare for the addition to the Pleasantvale affordable housing complex located at the intersection of Central, Kingsway and Cambridge avenues.
Signs reading “we are destroying the very things that save us,” were held by three protestors as they watched trees fall.
Approximately 20 trees will be cut down to make space for the Pleasantvale 2 development, said BC Housing.
President of Kelowna Tree Protectors Beverly Kalmakoff said that in the spring of 2022, the group of activists had tried to get plans changed to save more of the trees, but they were only able to secure the future of four trees on the proposed development site.
BC Housing said that initial plans stated that all trees were required to be removed. After working with their partners and the community, the plans were amended to allow the four heritage trees to be spared.
Kalmakoff said that although the city needs more housing, the trees need to be taken into account at the beginning of the development process, not as an afterthought.
She said that many of the trees being removed are more than 70 years old.
“What we are after today is just to say goodbye to the trees and thank them for what they’ve done over the years,” said Kalmakoff.
The Pleasantvale 2 rental housing unit will be home to 75 apartments and town homes for families and individuals with low to moderate incomes. No supportive housing will be built on this site.
Affordable rental housing has controlled rental prices to make it attainable for people with moderate or low incomes.
Kelowna currently has one of the most expensive rental markets in Canada with a shortage of affordable rental options. The Pleasantvale 2 development is part of the province’s goal to address the lack of affordable housing.
In the frequently asked questions section of the Pleasantvale page on the BC Housing website, it says that many of the trees that will be removed were deemed “not salvageable,” and others were growing in locations that conflicted with the development plan.
“The retention of existing, mature trees is often difficult,” said BC Housing.
The housing association said that they will be replanting approximately two-times the number of new trees, and the size of the new trees at the time of planting will be enough to create an “instant landscape.”
Kalmakoff said that the new trees won’t provide equivalent benefits compared to the established tree for at least 30 years.
“We’re losing trees that are going to give us shade, going to produce oxygen for us and provide places for the animals to live.”