After a 15-month investigation, two North Vancouver homeowners and a North Shore-based arborist are facing criminal charges after they allegedly cut down a swath of trees in Capilano River Regional Park.
The RCMP opened an investigation on Feb.13 last year after Metro Vancouver, which owns the park, reported that 35 trees along the 4500-block of Capilano Road had been either cut or seriously damaged through having their limbs removed. North Vancouver RCMP allege the homeowners hired the arborist to use his chainsaw to open up views of the West Vancouver waterfront.
It became apparent that the intended outcome, of course, was to increase their westward view from their homes and that was substantially increased by the limbing or cutting down of the trees, said Cpl. Richard De Jong, North Vancouver RCMP spokesman.
The investigation took more than a year because of the number of different police resources needed to build a case the Crown would take to court. That included aerial photography, consulting with professional arborists, calling in the RCMPs provincial forest crimes unit and assigning the case to the provinces environmental Crown prosecutor.
Charged are homeowners Hooman Bozorgnia, 41, and Roger Mulloy, 54, as well arborist Jeff Hoff, 33, owner of Hoff Tree Services.
Each is facing one count of mischief over $5,000. If found guilty, they face a maximum of six months jail time and $5,000 in fines.
Bringing the trees down, some of which were upwards of 145 years old, put the slope above the Capilano River and adjacent homes at risk of a landslide, wildfire and wind damage.
How much Bozorgnia and Mulloy allegedly paid Hoff for the service wont be revealed until the trial, if one is necessary, De Jong said.
News of the charges is welcomed by Heather Deal, chairwoman of the Metro Vancouver environment and parks committee.
I actually went up with the crew and crawled up and down the slope looking at what happened and it was quite disturbing, said Deal, who used to work in watershed restoration. Some of these trees were probably around when Canada was incorporated and it will probably take that many years before they get back to the magnificent stature they used to have.
While many are inclined to get angry over the loss of trees held in the public trust for private gain, the real victim is the surrounding ecosystem, Deal said.
Metro Vancouver has already spent $26,000 out of pocket to clean up the site and do geotechnical assessments, and another $25,000 is budgeted for remediation. That will likely involve replanting the slope with trees and plants that will give the slope stability.
Its a very steep, steep slope with fine material in the soil and its in a very wet zone, so we definitely need to make sure that soil is staying in place, she said.
But metro taxpayers wont necessarily be left holding the bill, Deal added.
There is a possibility of looking to recover those costs through civil action and we also have the possibility of fining them under our bylaws of up to $1,000 per occurrence and that occurrence could be per tree, Deal said.
Were going to be following the legal proceedings very closely and making a decision as to what Metros best option is.
While the disrespect shown to the public and environment was disappointing, Deal acknowledged that most Metro Vancouver residents love their parks and would go to great lengths to protect them.