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Tree vandalism escalates in Sechelt

Tree vandals in Sechelt have been snapping young trees to the ground along Shorncliffe Boulevard, Norwest Bay Road and in Hackett Park.

Tree vandals in Sechelt have been snapping young trees to the ground along Shorncliffe Boulevard, Norwest Bay Road and in Hackett Park.

Sechelt parks foreman Perry Schmitt said that while tree vandalism isn't new to Sechelt, the problem seems to be escalating, with about 45 trees snapped in the last four years and about 17 this year alone. The recent spate of attacks started a few weeks ago when vandals snapped three flowering pears along Shorncliffe Boulevard.

"I think everybody can see how beautiful that boulevard looked when we finally got the go-ahead to do it," he said, explaining that the 17 flowering pear trees were planted about six months ago. "We planted it up with numerous street trees and they were just in glorious flower this spring. It could only have gotten better."

Schmitt said each flowering pear probably cost the District $125 plus delivery and installation costs.

At roughly the same time, two trees in Hackett Park were snapped dead, including a bowhall maple on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Medusa Street - a tree which he said the parks department has already replaced four times. This last time they opted for the bowhall to give the vandals a run for their money.

"We had one in stock and I thought, 'Boy, this is a nice big tree; they'll have trouble busting it'," he said wryly.

Yet bust it "they" did, he said, noting that he's about ready to give up on replacing that particular tree.

Schmitt said the biggest tree attack happened a week later, when vandals snapped eight bowhall maples on Norwest Bay Road. And as with the Hackett Park maple, he said, these were "serious" trees, rising five metres and not even "liftable" when they were installed two years ago.

"This is kids going to extraordinary efforts to get these to snap -bending them, probably two or three people's weight on them and using leverage," he surmised.

The tree loss on Norwest Bay Road amounts to $4,000 in damage, including delivery, installation and two years of watering.

"Actual replacement costs would be probably closer to $2,400, but it's the work, it's the challenge, it's the disappointment we feel when we see this happen because it's so negative," he said. "We have so many positive things we're trying to do and it's just a setback for us. We have to go fix these things, so it takes away from improvements in other areas or just keeping up on the maintenance."

And then early yesterday morning, June 17, vandals snapped another four flowering pear trees along Shorncliffe Avenue.

"I had a safety meeting this morning with my crew and one of the guys, the main gardener, he's just looking pale and I said 'What the heck's wrong with you?' and he said, 'It's those trees,'" Schmitt said a few hours after the attack. "I tell you, we take this stuff to heart. There's a lot of effort that goes into it, and you have it turn out really good like it did, and you look at it and think 'Wow, that's really good.' And then this happens, and it affects us."

Schmitt is asking Sechelt residents to call the RCMP if they see or hear any suspicious activity near trees - particularly along Norwest Bay Road and in the Hackett Park area.

Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) parks supervisor John Miller said the SCRD doesn't maintain boulevards, and thus hasn't seen tree vandalism problems of this nature. Town of Gibsons director of parks and cultural services Wendy Gilbertson said that while Gibsons had some problems a year or so ago with trees being snapped while the Gibsons and Area Community Centre was being landscaped, the Town hasn't experienced any tree vandalism problems yet this year.