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Oak Bay tree day celebrates community climate champions

Coolkit program aims to draft more to the climate cause
Oak Bay celebrates trees with demonstrations and information on Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the 3100-block of Midland Road. (Black Press Media file photo)

Oak Bay’s annual neighbourly gathering for tree appreciation day is full of learning opportunities from best practices in pruning to planting, and an update on the community involvement in the Coolkit program.

The district embarked on the CoolKit program in conjunction with the University of British Columbia forestry program earlier this year, hosting several spring sessions introducing the program that aims to engage community members of all ages with a focus on impacting climate change in an active way.

“One of our objectives is to expand the program we started this year … Trees play a big part of the program,” explained Chris Hyde-Lay, manager of parks.

The Coolkit hits all the main objectives of the urban forest strategy including achieving 40 per cent canopy cover by 2045; to manage the urban forest for climate change adaptation; and to engage the community in urban forest stewardship.

Oak Bay is currently at 33 per cent.

RELATED: Online tool challenges Oak Bay residents to become climate champions

“It’s really nice to see the community step up and help the council meet their targets, working hand-in-hand with district staff, so it’s a collective action. It’s about what can we do for our neighbourhood and neighbours,” said UBC professor Stephen Sheppard, the principal investigator for the Coolkit team.

He calls it a do-it-yourself tool kit of exercises anyone can do in their own backyard or neighbourhood. The spring sessions turned out many community climate champions, a major goal of the program that they plan to recognize during the tree appreciation event on Nov. 6.

Andrea Careless started in the spring, and has grown to amass one of the larger neighbourhood groups investigating options in their Estevan-area neighbourhood. She attended a Coolkit exercise, then brought up the subject during a Block Watch meeting.

“It blew me away so many people were interested, and not just interested but dedicated and they really know about climate change. I thought I would have to sell it to them and they were all on board.”

Now the large group is invested in actively mitigating greenhouse gas reductions and greening up their streets.

“We ended up with about eight groups of champions working together in their own local neighbourhoods,” Sheppard said of the spring sessions.

With those groups, 10 to 12 per cent of residential blocks are represented in some way, and Sheppard hopes to have a map detailing the coverage at the event. “We want to invite others to join or suggest where some new groups could form in areas not yet represented. … That means there’s a lot still to do.”

Oak Bay tree appreciation day is Sunday, Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the 3100-block of Midland Road.

Don’t forget to turn the clocks back, Daylight Savings Time ends earlier that day.

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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