Trees Please Hamilton

Green Solutions to Air Pollution

Why urban trees matter to Hamilton

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We are famous!
Well not famous but a column written by our very own, Carolyn Zanchetta has been published in the Hamilton Spectator all about the importance of trees in the urban environment.   Thanks to the Spectator team for publishing this! 

Here is the article:

Why urban trees matter to Hamilton
Our tree canopy is an important resource, but to maintain it demands investment and attention

Picture walking down an old street of an even older neighbourhood in the city in the peak of the summer. The trees above you tower from both sides of the street and meet in the middle, sheltering you from the midday heat. A welcome breeze whispers through, rustling the leaves above. Soon these trees will turn brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, and not long after be frosted with snow. The city is a little quieter in this urban forest; traffic moves a little slower, and the air feels fresher. If you walk a bit farther, though, you might turn the corner and head down a busy arterial road, leaving the shade behind as the cars zip by. Instantly sweltering and squinting against the brightness, it feels degrees warmer as you wait for the bus with the afternoon sun shining down.

Trees are some of our city’s greatest assets: frequently overlooked, but appreciated by all. Often not until many years after planting do we truly acknowledge their worth. But care must be taken to ensure these assets reach their full potential. The myriad benefits of trees go far beyond the creation of oxygen: trees shade our streets and prevent UV exposure, promote physical activity and reduce stress, capture respirable particulate matter (a confirmed cause of lung cancer), diminish traffic noise, decrease home energy bills, manage stormwater and erosion, increase property values, and have even been shown to improve Grade 6 math scores.

Urban Hamilton’s tree canopy provides a coverage of around 18 per cent, but this includes the forested strip of Niagara Escarpment that runs through our city. The city is aiming to achieve a 35 per cent canopy coverage. In a highly paved city, this seems far-fetched, yet Toronto’s tree canopy is around 27 per cent, and the city’s goal is to reach 40 per cent by 2050. In Hamilton’s downtown core, the tree canopy coverage is even lower than 18 per cent. Walking down Cannon or Main Street in the full sun on a scorching hot summer day is unbearable. The urban forest along James Street is patchy with trees constantly needing to be replaced as they suffer in poor quality soil and have no room to breathe with pavement right up to their trunks. A healthy and mature tree canopy is inequitably linked to higher income neighbourhoods, leaving other areas more vulnerable to urban heat island effects and air pollution.

Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club came together on the Trees Please project to conduct urban tree inventories and air quality monitoring with the community. The citizen science project invites everyone to learn about the trees in their neighbourhoods and where there are air quality challenges to facilitate planting the right tree in the right place. Over three years, Trees Please has inventoried over 6,000 neighbourhood trees and has contributed to the planting of over 2,000 trees across the city, through public tree plantings on city property and parks, planting at several schools, and giveaways to residents. Trees Please has worked closely with the City of Hamilton and councillors to encourage the prioritization of trees, and was instrumental in the initiation of the Hamilton’s Urban Forest Strategy.

Trees are tremendous resources with countless benefits, but, like all municipal infrastructure, need to be planted and maintained properly to allow them to grow to their full potential. By investing in the use of soil cells to provide adequate space for trees to grow in highly urban areas, trees are better protected and can achieve a much healthier lifespan. Soil cells provide a protected structural space that is filled with quality soil, where roots can grow in appropriate soil volume without interfering with utilities. The structure also shelters the roots from the pressure of the road and sidewalk above, and prevents the roots and sidewalk from heaving over time. This technique is being used more and more across Hamilton: the new student residence on James Street North will now have street trees planted using soil cell technology, which will allow the trees to mature, greatly enhancing tree cover in the area. This is a small win for Hamilton’s urban forest. Other developments should be encouraged by the city to follow suit to demonstrate their commitment to a healthy Hamilton by planting long-living, quality trees.

The Urban Forest Strategy is now underway in Hamilton and provides a unique opportunity to share your opinions about the future of Hamilton’s urban forest. This is a long-term plan to grow and maintain the trees throughout the city. The city offers a free tree through the Street Tree Planting program, with plenty of native species to choose from. The greatest potential for growing the urban forest exists in our own yards.

Trees Please is a project of Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club providing green solutions to air pollution. Learn more at treespleasehamilton.org.

Trees Please is a project of Environment Hamilton and the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club providing green solutions to air pollution. Learn more at treespleasehamilton.org.

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Author: treespleasehamilton

A project of the Hamilton Naturalists' Club and Environment Hamilton. Funding by Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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