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It isn’t easy being an urban tree in Kamloops

A vandalized maple tree in McDonald Park, Kamloops, July 12.

The big, beautiful deciduous shade trees in Kamloops parks require constant protection from the City from vandals.

Brian Purves has worked for many years in the arboriculturist department.

“Taking care of trees in our parks is a big focus for us and the general public loves having them,” he said.

While many things damaging trees are either natural or come from organized construction activity, the most frustrating one for Purves is vandalism, something he has seen lots of over the years in many different forms.

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Most recently, there was an attack by a group of youth with a hammer on the maple trees in McDonald Park.

“A resident witnessed about half a dozen young people using the back of a hammer to claw the bark off of trees,” Purves said. “I think we had six trees in different degrees of damage, anywhere from chipping bark to stripping the bark right off up to 50% around the diameter.”

The trees were initially damaged at the end of April but the removal of the bark prompted more kids to keep picking it off, putting the trees in danger, as they need bark to carry water and nutrients up to their leaves.

In late spring, Purves and his team wrapped the trees up with wire and posted a sign to the public asking that vandalism to trees get reported to a listed phone number.

City sign on a vandalized tree in McDonald Park asking witnesses of tree damage to phone 250-828-3409, July 12.
City sign on a vandalized tree in McDonald Park asking witnesses of tree damage to phone 250-828-3409, July 12.

Purves said he has also seen vandalism to trees with a chisel in the past.

“A couple years ago someone took half the diameter of bark off an oak in Riverside Park,” he said. “It was a good 30 inch diameter tree that we ended up having to take down because the damage was too much.”

He said he has seen evidence of people hitting trees with objects and witnessed kids bashing trees with their skateboards.

“There are carvings in trees as well which we don’t want to encourage because not everyone knows how far you can go into the bark without damaging the cambium,” he said. “We see lots of broken branches and snapping of full small trees on the West Victoria Corridor. Sometimes people hang on smaller trees until they snap.”

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Purves said there have been incidents where residents have used herbicides to kill trees that are blocking their view.

Other damages come from construction and vehicles in parks.

“Park trees get internal damage from mowers and line trimmers,” he said. “When we have new construction or big events in our parks, big rigs are brought in along with other vehicles and the roots can get damaged so we keep a watch on that.”

Motor vehicle incidents take out trees about three or four times per year.

Beavers, voles and deer can cause damage and death of trees.

“We put stucco wire around trees at McArthur Island Park where the beavers do the most damage and around trees in the cemeteries where the deer do the most damage rubbing their velvet off their antlers in the fall,” he said. “Voles are bad in some areas and chew on the roots of new trees.”

There are insects that threaten trees and environmental factors like last year’s heat dome.

“Some trees died in the heat dome and just didn’t come back,” Purves said. “Early and late winter freezes can also do considerable damage to trees.”

The City is trying to encourage people to call in when they see damage being done to urban trees at 250-828-3409.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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