McGregor Says: Finding the balance

I noticed that recently, there was a public meeting to discuss the value of trees. Do we need a university professor to lecture us on why we should be striking a balance between preservation and development?

Ask the residents of Houston, Tex.

In the midst of a ‘storm of the century’ that dumped billions of gallons of rainwater on the city comes the admission that urban development and replacing soil with concrete and blacktop worsened the situation.

Under normal circumstances, rain or snowfall soaks back into the earth. It gets absorbed by grasslands, by parks, by residential lawns, by anywhere the soil is exposed.

Two factors can impede that absorption. One is large quantities of rain in a short period of time. The second is covering over the ground so it cannot soak up water in the first place.

Cities transform the land into developed civilization.The developers that built the projects and the politicians that approved them are all long gone and the taxpayers and the first responders bear the brunt of the poor planning.

A colleague of mine was fire chief in an Okanagan community. A developer made the proposal to build a subdivision up on the mountainside in the forest with a great view of the lake. Big homes that would pay big taxes.

The chief told his council that it would take 18 minutes to get a fire truck up there and there would be limited water supply. The subdivision was approved and the chief and his people began an aggressive public relations campaign.

On hot summer day a fire raced up the mountain and destroyed four homes on one street, leaving one standing.

The home owner of the surviving house had read the information. He used rocks instead of bark mulch. He cut back the spruce trees and replaced them with fruit trees. He used duroid shingles instead of cedar shakes and cleared the brush from around all his structures.

The chief watched the evening news with the reporter standing in front of the surviving house and heard the reporter say, “Only God knows why this home was saved and the others burned.”

The chief knew.

It’s not just the debate over cutting trees. We are being allowed to build into areas with poor access and we are paving over the sponge that is supposed to absorb the rainfall.

If there were no structures the forests would be allowed to burn as a natural occurrence.

Once the damage is done, the only ones left to blame are the first responders and they already knew the hazards of allowing your house to be built in the forest on a dead end gravel access road.

I feel for all those displaced this summer and all those who have lost property, homes and memories. If you are going to rebuild, build smart, find that balance with nature.

Bears aren’t encroaching into our neighbourhoods, we’re stumbling into theirs.

At least that’s what McGregor says.