Add tree planting to the list of activities Kamloops residents have been doing to keep themselves busy at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city has noticed an uptick this year in the use of its tree coupons, a rebate program intended to encourage tree planting.
City parks manager Jeff Putnam told the city’s civic operations committee on Monday staff typically hand out the coupons at events, resulting in about half of the allotted program subscription over the past four years. This year, however, the province cancelled large gatherings to curb spread of the novel coronavirus, so the city instead partnered with nurseries.
As a result, Putnam said, he expects all 750 coupons to be fully subscribed.
It will cost the city about $15,000, compared to about $10,000 in previous years.
Coun. Bill Sarai is on the committee and said he would like to see the city improve its tree canopy, specifically in Batchelor Heights and North Kamloops. In addition to trees planted by residents, the city plants about 200 trees per year, Putnam said.
The city’s civic operations director, Jen Fretz, said there were plans to hire an arborist prior to the pandemic. The city had in fact intended to hire two parks staff through 2022 to improve the tree canopy and maintain service levels for caring for trails and nature, as the city grows. The cost was pegged at $700,000 over the next five years.
Council, however, cancelled all of its supplemental budget items as it worked to balance its budget amidst lost revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has since recently reinstated one of those supplemental budget items, with some federal dollars, that being expansion of pickleball courts at Riverside Park.