Regrouping Around the Elms

15 Mar

Sadly, the historic stretch of Elm trees along nine blocks of East 6th Avenue in Vancouver is again under threat.

In 2011, a passionate community response caused the Parks Board to back off plans to abruptly chop down 30 trees making up one of the most dramatic high-canopy streetscapes in East Vancouver. Instead, the Parks Board planted over 40 new Siberian Elms (which are now thriving), and worked with local residents to develop a management plan for the trees. The plan’s vision embraced the community’s love for the Elms:

“That the stately East 6th Avenue Elm canopy continue to thrive, inspire and delight residents and the broader community with its beauty, shade and exceptional environmental and historic value.”

Fast forward eight years. The Parks Board, sadly, put the jointly developed plan aside. They didn’t follow through on commitments to regularly prune the Elms, or to engage with the community over trees showing indications of being safety risks. Young Elms they planted in a Parks Board nursery died, and they didn’t report the setback to the community, or secure replacement Elms. In 2018, nine Elms along East 6th Avenue were removed, several abruptly and without explanation.

In March 2019, the Parks Board hosted a community meeting where the main thrust was to highlight the challenges of maintaining Elms – with barely a nod to the community’s passion for the Elms, and no mention of the tremendous environmental, shade, and community-building value of these trees.

(Fun fact: a Portland study showed Elms to contribute the highest value of any tree in an urban setting. The study quantified the value of the environmental and aesthetic benefits that trees provide. Due to their large canopies, Elms topped the entire list. Elms significantly reduce energy costs, lower atmospheric CO2 levels, provide air cleaning services, save the city in stormwater processing, and increase resale value of residential properties.)

One of the residents who participated in developing the tree management plan in 2011 has written a compelling letter expressing her disappointment and anger at the turn of events: Elms of East 6th Avenue Broken Promises.

Postscript, March 27, 2019: The Vancouver Park Board circulated an announcement to local residents saying they are committed to replanting Siberian Elms along East 6th Avenue. The announcement also confirmed the Park Board’s commitment to maintaining the Elms and communicating with local residents about the care of the Elms streetscape.

East 6th Elms “Places that Matter” plaques

3 Feb
Places that Matter Plaque at East 6th and Nanaimo

Places that Matter Plaque at East 6th and Nanaimo

The plaques recognizing the East 6th Elms as a “Place that Matters” in Vancouver have been installed in three places along the nine-block stretch of Elm trees. The recognition is part of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s commemorative plaque project marking Vancouver’s 125th anniversary. The Places that Matter honour was bestowed on the East 6th Elms in a presentation ceremony last summer attended by 50 plus community members, joined by Vancouver Park Board officials. Several community members and the Park Board kindly donated additional funds to enable three Places that Matter plaques to be installed along East 6th Avenue: one at each end of the Elm canopy at Nanaimo Street and Woodland Drive, as well as a third plaque at the bustling intersection of East 6th and Commercial Drive where hundreds of pedestrians pass by every day. The Places that Matter plaque reads:

“This unique Siberian elm canopy lining East 6th Avenue from Woodland Drive to Nanaimo Street is managed by an innovative long-term plan developed in a collaborative effort between the Park Board and East 6th Avenue residents. With a focus on preservation and restoration this historic treescape will be maintained for future generations as part of a thriving urban forest.” East 6th Elms are a Place that Matters to Vancouverites

East 6th Elms recognized as a “Place that Matters” to Vancouver

4 Jul

The recognition of the East 6th Elms as a “Place that Matters” in Vancouver took place on Friday, June 22, with 50 plus community members, joined by Vancouver Park Board officials, gathering for the plaque presentation event. The recognition is part of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s commemorative plaque project to mark Vancouver’s 125th anniversary. Places that Matter selection committee member and local historian Michael Kluckner presented a commemorative plaque to the community. The plaque, which will be installed in three locations along East 6th Avenue, reads:

“This unique Siberian elm canopy lining East 6th Avenue from Woodland Drive to Nanaimo Street is managed by an innovative long-term plan developed in a collaborative effort between the Park Board and East 6th Avenue residents. With a focus on preservation and restoration this historic treescape will be maintained for future generations as part of a thriving urban forest.”

The Places that Matter plaque in the hands of future generations

The latest (temporary) addition to the East 6th Elms

Why the East 6th Elms matter to the community

Places that Matter selection committee member Michael Kluckner

Terry Walton of the Vancouver Park Board

Places that Matter program coordinator Jessica Quan

Enjoying JJ Bean’s donated coffee

Over 50 community members took in the presentation

“Places that Matter” plaque presentation on Friday, June 22

17 Jun

The recognition of the East 6th Elms as a “Place that Matters” in Vancouver takes place on Friday, June 22:

Places that Matter | East 6th Elms
Plaque Presentation by Vancouver Heritage Foundation
Date: Friday, June 22, 5:00pm
Location: East 6th Ave & Commercial Drive (in front of 1727 East 6th Ave)

The recognition, part of a Vancouver Heritage Foundation initiative to mark the city’s 125th anniversary, will be commemorated with three plaques to be installed along East 6th Avenue. The presentation of the plaques on June 22 will feature a few words from resident nominators from East 6th Ave, the Vancouver Park Board, and the Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Coffee is being provided by nearby cafe JJ Bean, and there will be treats!

Please feel free to forward the notice for the event, and invite others to join in this recognition of the nine block stretch of Elm trees on East 6th Avenue  as one of 125 “Places That Matter” in Vancouver.

Help care for the new Elms

10 Jun

The new Elms on East 6th Ave need your help this summer! To get a good start a healthy street tree needs at least 3 to 5 gallons of water, twice per week. It’s been a wet spring, and so there’s been lots of moisture as the 50 young Elms take root along the nine-block stretch of East 6th Ave. But at some point we’ll (hopefully!) get some dry, hot weather, during which it will be particularly critical that the new Elms get water.

Although the Park Board is watering the new trees during their first summer following planting, additional water during dry, hot periods and in subsequent years would help a whole lot. Residents have signed up to care for many of the 50 new Elms, but we still need help with a few trees. If you’re willing to adopt a baby Elm tree to water and care for, please sign up in the East 6th Elms Nurturing List Google document. The commitment involved is to water the tree once per week and twice during dry, hot weeks. Trees respond best when the water is applied slowly over the root ball at a rate of about 20L (5 gals) per watering. Water restrictions do not apply to the watering of new landscape trees.

East 6th Elms chosen as a “Place That Matters”

6 May

The Elms of East 6th Avenue have been chosen as one of the 125 “Places That Matter” in Vancouver!

The selection was made by the Vancouver Heritage Foundation as part of its Places That Matter Plaque Project, which began in 2011 to mark the city’s 125th anniversary. The project asked Vancouverites to get involved in choosing 125 sites where plaques would be mounted commemorating people, places and events that helped to shape our city. The Elms of East 6th finished in the top 10 in the public voting, alongside such well known sites as the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Hotel Vancouver, Granville Island, and Grouse Mountain. A selection committee then chose the 125 sites that matter to Vancouverites.

The 125 winning sites can be seen on a Places That Matter Google Map. Each site is being marked with a commemorative plaque. The wording for the East 6th Elms plaque, which is anticipated to be placed on each end of the 9-block stretch of Elms as well as at the intersection of East 6th and Commercial, is:

This unique Siberian elm canopy lining East 6th Avenue from Woodland Drive to Nanaimo Street is managed by an innovative long term plan developed in a collaborative effort between the Park Board and East 6th Avenue residents. With a focus on preservation and restoration this historic treescape will be maintained for future generations as part of a safe, healthy urban forest.

Stay tuned for the date of a plaque celebration event!

New Elms celebrated

22 Jan

The first of many new Elm trees for East 6th Ave: what a beauty!

On Saturday, January 21, residents along East 6th Avenue gathered with Vancouver Park Board officials near Victoria Drive to add the last few shovels of dirt to plant a new Elm tree.

As the Vancouver Sun reported, at about 10 feet, the new Elm was dwarfed by the dozens of majestic, 70-year old Elms that line the street, yet those gathered let out a boisterous cheer for what the young tree represented: a historic collaboration between the Vancouver Park Board and area residents which will result in over 50 new Elm trees being planted along East 6th Avenue.

Close to a year ago, in February 2011, the Park Board had announced plans to remove 30 of the mature Elms and drastically prune others. The community’s passionate outcry led to the formation of the East 6th Elms Joint Working Group of six area residents and Park Board officials. The collaboration resulted in a plan to remove only five of the existing Elms, scale back the pruning plans to balance public safety with preservation, and to reinvigorate the majestic Elm canopy by planting over 50 new Elms.

East 6th Elms Joint Working Group of local residents and Vancouver Park Board staff

The first new Elm was celebrated at an event on Saturday, January 21, attended by local residents, Vancouver Park Board Chair Constance Barnes, Commissioners Aaron Jasper, Niki Sharma, Sarah Blyth and Melissa De Genova, and Park Board General Manager Malcolm Bromley. Barnes thanked the community for its passion and commitment to preserving their street trees, and Bromley spoke about the successful collaboration between the Park Board and area residents informing the way Park Board will work with other neighbourhoods in the future.

Vancouver Park Board Commissioners Niki Sharma, Constance Barnes, Sarah Blyth, Melissa De Genova, and Aaron Jasper at the East 6th Elms celebration


“It is an enormous success story, not only for our neighbourhood but for all of Vancouver,” resident member of the Joint Working Group, Inge Mueller-Langer, told the Vancouver Sun. “It just goes to show that residents, working together, can really help shape their neighbourhoods. It was the best possible outcome for all involved.”

Come celebrate the East 6th Elms with us!

11 Jan

On Saturday, January 21, 2012, area residents and the Vancouver Park Board invite you to celebrate the 52 new Elms that will be planted in the spaces where Elm trees once grew along East 6th Avenue. This planting of new Elms will reinvigorate and strengthen the historic Elm canopy that stretches the nine blocks of East 6th Avenue from Woodland Drive to Nanaimo Street.

The 1800 block of East 6th will be closed to traffic for a dedication ceremony & good old fashioned street party for the friends & neighbours of the Elms. We hope you can come!

What: East 6th Elms Dedication Ceremony & Good Old Fashioned Street Party

When: Saturday January 21, 2012, 1 pm – 3 pm

Where: East 6th & Victoria Drive, on the northwest corner

Dress for the weather! Event will go rain or shine – we’re hoping for “shine!”

Drop by under the tent for some Elm pie, home baked nibblies and some warm drinks too. If you like street hockey, bring your gear! Crafts and games for the kids.

New Elms coming to East 6th Ave!

8 Dec

Close to 40 young Siberian elm trees have arrived in Vancouver in anticipation of planting on East 6th Avenue. The Siberian elms were transported in November from an Alberta nursery, and East 6th Ave residents from the Elms Joint Working Group joined city arborist Bill Stephen to view the elms in the Vancouver Park Board nursery by Sunset Community Centre.

East 6th Ave Resident Faith Admires New Elms

The new elms are expected to be planted in January 2012, filling gaps along East 6th Ave where elms once grew. The planting is part of a plan aimed at renewing the dramatic elm canopy along East 6th, realizing the vision that:

The stately East 6th Avenue elm canopy continue to thrive, inspire and delight residents and the broader community with its beauty, shade and exceptional environmental and historic value. 

draft planting plan and draft management plan for the East 6th treescape were featured at an Open House held on October 26. The Open House also included a questionnaire inviting feedback. The results from the questionnaire featured a high degree of support for the draft plans: over 80% of respondents supported the draft planting plan and over 75% supported the overall direction of the draft management plan for the East 6th treescape.   

Residents and City Arborist Admire New Elms

The planting expected in January 2012 will follow pruning of 25 elms in December to address structural and safety issues.

The new Siberian elms are an excellent size, standing 12 to 15 feet tall, with a six to eight inch girth and a three foot root ball. The planting will include a few American elms as well, with close to 50 new elm trees being planted in total. (There are currently some American elms mixed in with the Siberian elms along the nine block stretch of East 6th Ave, and so the new planting will continue that mixture.)

Once the planting schedule is confirmed, the Elms Joint Working Group of residents and Park Board staff will host a celebration of the new elm trees. Save this tentative date: Saturday January 21st. Plan to come and celebrate with East 6th!

Elms Open House: Plans and survey available online

28 Oct

Many thanks to all those who attended the Elms Open House on October 26! It was fabulous to see so many members of the community come out, engaging with the plans for preserving and renewing the unique elm canopy we enjoy on East 6th Avenue.  

Elms Open House information package on Vancouver Park Board website

Elms Open House website

For those who weren’t able to make it, the full Elms Open House information package and survey is available on the Vancouver Park Board website, and includes:

  • A Pruning Plan: to address certain structural and safety issues with 25 of the trees along East 6th
  • A draft Planting Plan: to fill in the gaps along the street where elms once grew
  • A draft Management Plan: to ensure the health and longevity of this heritage streetscape
  • An online survey: to share your thoughts on the proposed plans

The East 6th Elms Joint Working Group made up of area residents and Park Board staff eagerly look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas on the proposed plans for preserving and renewing the East 6th elm canopy.