Langford’s Urban Forest Management Plan finally making its way to light
Thetis Lake Regional Park. Photo: Sidney Coles / The Westshore
The City of Langford recently announced the moves it will take to implement its Urban Forest Management Plan (UFMP). Touted as a community-based initiative, the council will consider future planning and action based on information it currently has and that it will gather from various sector experts and from a participatory survey for its residents. It will integrate these into its 25-year vision, operational plans, and the policies that will support the plan’s future implementation.
“Langford Council recognizes the significance of Langford’s urban forest and wishes to formalize its protection and management through the creation of the city’s first Urban Forest Management Plan,” said Langford Mayor Scott Goodmanson at the time of the announcement.
Thus far, the character of the city’s urban forest planning and management has been more ad hoc, relying on temporary or interim bylaws. Trees in Langford are regulated both through the city’s Development Permit Areas, as well as through the city’s Interim Tree Protection Bylaw (2136). A point of concern are exemptions to protection that ceded to development projects.
Trees that are exempt from protection under the interim bylaw include trees to be cut down by the city in relation to walkways and trails, trees authorized to be cut down in accordance with a development or building permit or any other permit issued by the city, and trees that are located on properties within development permit areas, but which are excluded from the development permit process.
Despite its name, the trees under consideration in the plan refer not just to those in natural forested areas, but also include yard trees, street trees, streamside trees, trees in agricultural areas. And it goes beyond trees. The plan will also consider data collected about Langford’s plants, soils, and ecosystem components located within its boundaries. It’s about the stewardship of the small and the mighty.
The project is being carried out in a number of stages, including two phases of public engagement whose objectives are to inform the public about current urban forest status and to explore challenges and opportunities for improving the health of the urban forest, its biodiversity and to maintain Langford’s unique character.
Langford is home to four major and culturally significant natural forest areas: Goldstream Provincial Park, Thetis Lake Regional Park (established as Canada's first nature sanctuary in 1958), Mount Wells Regional Park and Mill Hill Regional Park (approved to become a public park by the provincial government in 1976). Thetis and Goldstream parks are home to 500- to 600-year-old Douglas Fir trees.
The cultural significance of these parks goes well back in Langord’s modern and more ancient history. Before becoming a nature sanctuary, Thetis Lake was an important social gathering place for people in Victoria and View Royal.
In a heritage project funded by the BC Heritage Trust, Liz Crocker cites Louise Baur, a long-serving volunteer with the View Royal Archives who revealed that “Thetis Lake was the place to go during World War II, just as the Gorge was the place to go during the first war. There was a jukebox at the dance pavilion, boat, horse rentals and a concession stand that sold coke and chocolate bars. Music from the jukebox could be heard when far out on the lake in boats.”
Its significance to the First Nations peoples of the region has also been recorded, over time, by archaeologists who have found adzes, shell middens, culturally modified trees and various animal bone instruments. These objects and artifacts speak to the lives of the First Nations peoples who resided in and around these now public parks more than 1,280 years ago. These findings are documented in a Crocker’s report The Cultural Significance of Three Regional Parks. Given the significance of these areas, it’s important that Langford’s plan be rooted in the social, the economic and the environmental.
In its proposed breadth, the UFMP is about seeing the forest through the trees and the relationship of urban forest management to broader environmental issues like climate change. The project is funded by the province’s Local Government Climate Action Program, a program aimed at supporting local climate action that reduces emissions and prepares communities for the impacts of a changing climate and to reach legislated climate targets in the Clean BC Roadmap and Climate Preparedness Adaptation Strategy.
The UMFP is ambitious in its aims and broad in its ambitions, a fact that future generations will thank them for.
Langford residents are invited to attend an Open House on Nov. 15 from 5-8pm, at City Hall, 877 Goldstream Ave., 3rd Floor. Until Nov. 27, 2023, residents are also encouraged to visit LetsChatLangford.ca to complete the survey and provide input on the creation of the city’s Urban Forest Management Plan.