Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”
It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.
Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.
Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley School Board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.
The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.
Langley City councillors are being asked: With dry summers increasingly common, how important are natural features like trees, parks, and streams to keeping Langley City cooler?
Mayor Val van den Broek
A. We often take trees, waterways, and green spaces for granted, but we can’t and shouldn’t as they are extremely important.
Urban forests clean and cool air, filter and regulate water, reduce energy use and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and protect homes and businesses during storms and high temperatures.
Healthy street trees can lengthen the lifespan of built infrastructure, like roads and sidewalks, by shading them and reducing effects of weathering. They provide significant human health benefits.
I had the privilege of being on the Climate Action Committee working on Metro Vancouver’s Climate 2050 (visit Climate 2050 (metrovancouver.org), which is producing a comprehensive climate strategy for metro region municipalities that is critically needed.
During that, I learned the provincial and federal governments need to update the definition of infrastructure to include green infrastructure such as trees, rain gardens, waterways, and permeable surfaces, and help municipalities to develop and maintain these assets.
Therefore, it’s important to also partner with organizations like the FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) and its Green Municipal Fund – providing a mix of funding, learning resources, and training.
In planning we must continue to promote an electrified transit system, parklets, gorilla/urban gardening, community gardens, and trail maintenance and if we’re going to build, let’s build green – including new and old buildings (visit Better Homes BC).
Green infrastructure complements and reduces costs associated with traditional grey concrete, steel and asphalt infrastructure. It also provides a multitude of co-benefits that improve the health and well-being of residents, and makes our communities more beautiful and pleasant.
Councillor Paul Albrecht
A. The importance in preserving our natural features is vital.
I am a member of the City’s environment task group, and we are constantly discussing various strategies we can implement to not only protect but improve our community’s natural features, as well as reduce destructive waste on our environment.
As part of updating our Official Community Plan process staff and council are committed to implement strategies to not only protect our existing natural features, but to add and enhance them.
Various measures to improve upon the many significant natural areas we have will be implemented, but we also have a focus to reduce our carbon footprint through advanced environmentally responsible building measures, increasing our tree canopy, and protecting water use, waste, and recharging ground water reserves.
The simple answer is: all these natural features are extremely important to all of us. But just protecting them is not enough. We will protect them, but we also need to improve, enhance, as well as add to them.
Councillor Teri James
A. Trees, parks, trails, and natural water sources are extremely important in keeping communities cooler. As we try to mitigate the impacts of climate change, it is essential that we maintain and protect these natural assets.
Equally as important is that we preserve streamside vegetation in order to reduce heat flux, which can drastically alter the temperature of water if it has no plant protection.
Aside from being shade providers, trees provide transpiration (absorbed water that is released back into the air through pores in the leaves). This process accounts for about 10 per cent of the moisture in the Earth’s atmosphere, so it places trees in a position of very high importance when it comes to “cooling down a community.”
A recent council approved strategic plan, includes an urban forest management study and our proposed new Official Community Plan, contains a policy to implement environmental solutions to fight climate change.
Councillor Gayle Martin
A. Natural features like trees and parks are an asset in keeping Langley City cooler.
We are fortunate to have a natural asset in the Nicomekl Floodplain that offers a trail network throughout our community with an abundance of trees and the Nicomekl River.
Trees help reduce the temperature by providing shade, which in turn reduces the temperatures.
Langley City has planned on environmental solutions to help combat climate change in our proposed Official Community Plan.
Councillor Nathan Pachal
A. Tree, green spaces, and natural areas – such as the Nicomekl Floodplain and streams that intersect our community – are critical to protect and enhance as we try to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
These natural and green assets help combat the urban heat island effect.
Langley City council recently passed a strategic plan that includes completing an urban forest management strategy.
Langley City council also gave third reading to our proposed new Official Community Plan, which will guide our municipal government for decades to come.
One of the five keys policies in the proposed new Official Community Plan is to implement “environmental solutions to fight climate change.”
Councillor Rudy Storteboom
A. In Langley City, our parks serve as the heart of our community. City planners know the importance of parks and recreation goes beyond adding green space to beautify our City.
City council knows that residents want to live in a healthy, public spaces where families feel safe and at home.
Here are some important benefits of parks to consider:
- Lowering temperatures – Water courses and green spaces are cooler than roadways and parking lots.
- Clearing the air – Green spaces convert carbon pollution into oxygen.
- Conserving wild areas – Preserving natural settings promotes conservation and protects our environment.
- Storm water collection – Unpaved ground retains water runoff more efficiently and affordably than storm sewers.
- Creating social equality – All are welcome in our free public spaces.
- Inclusive social interaction – Promotes positive social connections between neighbours.
- Encouraging positive activity in kids – Appealing play areas stimulate young minds and bodies.
- Enhancing multi-sensory experiences and wellness – Sports and games can help develop personal fitness, mental acuity, and social skills.
- Creating safe gathering places – Special events in park spaces support a sense of safety and ownership in community.
- Reducing crime – Happy citizens occupying public spaces discourages negative activity.
- Improving property values – Homeowners prefer properties that are closer to parks and green spaces.
Our parks offer us a place of oasis from our busy lives and hot houses. I’m proud of our parks and our Langley City staff who do an excellent job of keeping our public spaces clean and safe for all of our residents.
Councillor Rosemary Wallace
A. As we move towards the future, it is essential that with the rapid rate of development that we consider the need to create spaces that will allow for new growth of trees while protecting as many existing healthy trees as possible.
Natural features aiding in cooling the climate are paramount.
Langley City is four square miles, and has a great asset in the Nicomekl Floodplain that has and continues to be a top priority in maintaining, protecting, and enhancing the ecological network of the many species that inhabit it.
Partnerships with LEPS, the Nicomekl Enhancement Society, and Langley Field Naturalists help in educating and protecting environmental sensitive areas in all weather extremes.
It is important that the City maintain and protect riparian vegetation to help to reduce stream erosion and maintain stable stream channel geomorphology. Vegetation provides shade, which works to lower water temperatures.
Langley City council has declared a climate emergency, and in that we must continue to push towards greener infrastructure in all areas of the City by increasing the tree canopy in the downtown and industrial areas.
Many of the parks in the City have a wide variety of tree species that help with shade and filtration, Portage Park – being one of my favourite – has one of the most areas covered with trees.
That being said, there is still room for more trees in other parts in the City.
Next week’s Langley Township councillors are being asked:
In light of the recent United Nation’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report on climate change, should the Township accelerate its plan to slash local greenhouse gas emissions?
Watch for their answers online Sunday.