Trees Please Hamilton

Green Solutions to Air Pollution


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Tree walk at Eastwood Park

Celebrating National Tree Week at the end of September, Charlie Briggs led us on a tour of Eastwood Park. We had inventoried every tree in this park with Trees Please this year (173 total, 18 species, mostly Littleleaf Lindens and English Oaks, but some interesting species like Yellowwood, Tulip Tree, and Black Tupelo).

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Ecosystem services of the inventoried trees at Eastwood Park

Charlie began the tour with stumps. At the edge of the park, there are a few shrubby bushes easy to pass over, but looking more closely, they are actually suckering Ash stems around the cut stump of the removed hazard trees. After being infected by the Emerald Ash Borer and dying, the suckers are trying to come back, but will ultimately be defeated by the bug once again.

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One of our favourite species in the park is the Kentucky Coffeetree. Featuring the largest leaf of all Canada’s native trees and a robust bean pod, this Carolinian species is being planted more frequently as a hardy urban species that will withstand climate change in Hamilton.

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There is a beautiful row of tall and reddening Freeman Maples along the parking lot. This is a naturally occurring hybrid between the Silver and Red Maples that highlights some of the best qualities from each. The wood is strong and smooth and the leaves have stunning fall colour. This is a great option for replacing the Norway Maples that were favoured decades ago as we now know that these invasive species have no place in our urban forest.

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The rows of Littleleaf Lindens and English Oaks around the soccer field and play area provide excellent park shade, but neither species is doing much beyond that. No dramatic fall colour, infrequently used by bugs and birds, and squirrels can’t even eat the oaks from this non-native tree! If you look under any fruiting Red Oak this October, you won’t see many acorns left, but the layer of acorns is thick beneath the English Oaks.

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On the western side of the park, there are some exciting Carolinian trees. The Tulip Tree is the largest growing native tree in Ontario! It has showy yellow tulip-like flowers in the early summer, and an interestingly shaped leaf turning yellow right about now. Further along there are a few Yellowwoods. These had stumped us as we were inventorying and it took a lot of research to figure it out! While not technically native to Ontario, it is in the Carolinian range and a good species to plant planning for climate change. Charlie told us how the fresh-cut wood is highlighter yellow, and the compound leaves at first glance are similar to the Coffeetree. Most interestingly in the park are two (struggling) Black Tupelo trees. Charlie expressed how these trees are quite particular about their growing soil, preferring a wet environment and clay soils. When growing happily, they are a stunning tree with the most spectacular flaming red fall foliage.

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It was a beautiful evening for a walk, and we are forever grateful for Charlie and all the incredible knowledge he is happy to share with us! Go for your own tour of the park along with our inventory data available here. Enjoy the changing leaves in the city this autumn!

And guess what – you can get shovels in the ground on October 20th and help us plant a few hundred trees at Heritage Green Sports Park. Hope to see you there!Sat Oct 20th, 2018 tree planting poster

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Lichen in the City

Have you ever wondered what’s growing all over your trees (and rocks and park benches…)? Did you know there are over 2000 different species of lichen in Canada?

Come learn about the science behind this fascinating organism and how we can use it to monitor air quality! Sign up with us at treespleasehamilton@gmail.com for one of these FREE workshops this October!

Lichen


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Why urban trees matter to Hamilton

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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Leaf cutter bees

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Michal planted a Redbud from our Free Tree Giveaway last year, and it’s doing beautifully in her yard. But recently, some nibbles at the leaves had her concerned about the health of the tree. She looked around for caterpillars, but none seemed to be hanging about.

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After a little digging, it looks like this type of hole is indicative of Leaf Cutter Bees, and one of their favourite go-to snacks is the Redbud leaf. These gentle native bees are solitary and do not have a hive to defend, and are therefore not interested in stinging you. Instead they nest in holes; you can help them out by leaving your garden a little messy in the autumn with hollow stems, or by putting up a bee box to invite these fantastic pollinators into your yard.

 

Interested in learning more about our native bees? Head over to the Hamilton Pollinator Paradise page, and also check out this great blog post about bee diversity in the city! What pollinators have you seen around your trees?


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Measuring last year’s giveaway trees

We were excited to happen upon one of our Canada 150 free trees from last year’s giveaway – the first to be included in our inventory!

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This well-tended Smooth Serviceberry is only 1.5 metres tall right now, but has the potential to grow up to 6 metres. The owner said that the little tree already produced delicious berries its first summer, which she said the birds enjoyed. So far, it is contributing $3 worth of ecosystem services per year, and removing 17 lbs of carbon dioxide annually. This homeowner’s five trees that we measured for our inventory are saving them some cash on their heating and cooling bills – a saving she notices increasing every year!

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Savings on our energy bills are just one of the many, many reasons we love trees in the city! How much are your trees saving you?

Our tree giveaway for 2018 started and deadline to register is September 28th, 2018.  Supplies are limited – reserve yours at treespleasehamilton.org!


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Free trees in our 2018 Neighbourhoods!

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We have some more wonderful native tree species of various sizes to give away to residents of the North End and Sherman!

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Will you choose a Canadian icon, the Sugar Maple, or the pollinator favourite, the Bur Oak?

How about the Hackberry, with its interesting leaves and berries birds love? Or the Ironwood, whose unique puffy fruit cluster looks like hops?

Maybe you’re looking for a smaller tree, like the showy Redbud, or the delicious Serviceberry. What about an evergreen, like the White Cedar, providing some habitat and interest throughout the winter?

Is your lawn small, but you still want to plant a little something? How about a shrub, like the yellow-flowered Northern Bush Honeysuckle, or Nannyberry, with big clusters of white flowers?

We also have these signs to tell your neighbours why you care about planting native trees! You can pick one up for a $5 donation to help cover printing costs.

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Visit treespleasehamilton.org for further details!


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City of Hamilton’s Street Tree Program and our canvassing experience

Over the course of two weeks, we had our summer interns, Sean Angel and Katie Hayashi help spread the word of the City’s Street Tree Program.  The City provides free tree(s) on the city-owned portion of homeowners front yards.  This post was written by Katie who detailed their experiences and findings.  

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Our summer interns, Sean and Katie out canvassing

The Hamilton  Street Tree Program is a program fully funded by the City of Hamilton and allows for local residents to receive free tree(s) for their residential properties.  Remarkably, the addition of trees to residential properties can improve the urban environment and health of its citizens by improving air quality, reducing the ‘Urban Heat Island’ effect, reducing smog, increasing storm water control as well as through noise abatement.  Ultimately, our goal was to inform Hamilton residents of this program and encourage them to sign up for the program through door-to-door canvassing.

Although the benefits of trees are well established, we committed to this canvassing with a level of uncertainty over the willingness of the public to get on board with the addition of urban trees on residential properties   This is where the canvassing story begins…but, spoiler alert, of the approximately 830 houses that we visited over the course of 2 weeks, only 5 homeowners opted to sign up for a free tree on the spot.  A success rate of 0.602%.  So was this a total failure?  Would you believe me if I said no?  Let me explain.

The first neighbourhood, of interest was in McQuesten West and is delineated by the red rectangle boundary below.  As shown in the images, Queenston Rd, Parkdale Ave N, Roxborough Ave, and Reid St make up the boundaries of our target neighbourhood.  This boundary contains about 450 houses, and was specifically targeted as a result of concerning air quality readings and poor tree cover recorded in previous trips to the area.

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The second neighbourhood was within Crownpoint East, in between Barton and Cannon, with Frederick and Kenilworth comprising the East-West boundaries.  This neighbourhood included about 380 houses.

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First, it is important to establish the criteria, which was used to assess whether a property would qualify for a free tree.  Specifically, as per the site requirements outlined by the city of Hamilton, we did not knock on doors that already had a tree on their lawn and skipped over properties that had very small lawns or lacked a lawn entirely.  Generally, the City of Hamilton requires a minimum of 1 metre and 1.5 metre clearance from the sidewalk and driveway, respectively.  Alternatively, the city will not plant trees in locations where the grass area width is less than 1.75 metres.

With this criteria in mind, the first day of canvassing kicked off at around 5:00PM on a weekday.  Over the next couple of weeks we canvassed 3 more times at this time throughout the week, and twice starting at 9:30AM.  This scheduling understandably conflicted with the working schedules of a number of homeowners throughout the target neighbourhood, and ultimately led to the high proportion of homes where we received no response.

Generally speaking, of the homes where we received a response, homeowners were quite polite, especially considering that our presence was likely an intrusion on their daily routines and family time.  Interestingly however, we found that homeowners were generally not interested in inquiring about the program on the spot.  In fact, in preparation for this canvassing, we anticipated that homeowners would be curious about what we were offering, and even skeptical about the legitimacy of the free program.  This turned out to not be the case, as most interactions were exceptionally brief.

This could be explained by a heightened skepticism towards speaking with door-to-door solicitors, or perhaps as a result of negative pre-conceived ideas about trees on residential properties.

Unfortunately, through our interactions with homeowners, the latter is at least partially responsible for the lack of interest.  For example, in the rare scenario where a homeowner justified their hesitancy to sign up for the program, they most often expressed concern over the way trees that have interfered with water and sewer pipes in the past.  One homeowner in particular stated that several trees on her street had been cut down due to root interference with pipes, and the substantial number of stumps we observed in the front lawns of these neighborhoods seemed to be evidence of this concern.

Luckily, Hamilton’s Street Tree Program offers over 40 different species of both native and non-native trees, many of which will not interfere with pre-existing underground piping!

Let’s now turn to the results of our canvassing.  As was stated previously, 5 out of approximately 830 houses signed up on the spot.  So does this mean that we were rejected 825 times?  Thankfully, no.  Let me use a small sample from our McQuesten neighbourhood to explain.

This particular sample contains about 250 houses and includes properties on Parkdale, Glassco, Queenston, Dunsmere, Beland and Reid.  After canvassing these streets, we acquired the following data:

  • 120 homes already had trees on their lawns
  • 26 homes had very small lawns or lacked a lawn entirely
  • 70 homeowners did not answer their doors
  • 28 homeowners said they were not interested
  • 4 homeowners said they were interested (but did not sign up on the spot)

This data provides some promising results.  First, nearly 50% (48%), already had trees, many of which were quite well established.  Second, the interest rate is much less discouraging when you assess only the homeowners who answered the doors.  In fact of the homeowners that we spoke to in this particular sample, 12.5% showed interest.   Although far from the majority, this is a much more encouraging statistic than the 0.602% success rate that we discussed earlier.

It is important to note that this figure above is only a reflection of a small sample of the houses that were visited over the course of this process.  Regardless, there is reason to be optimistic.  The substantial proportion of properties with both established and newly planted trees, illustrates the commitment of both past and current residents to ‘green’ these two Hamilton neighbourhoods.

Unfortunately, although program brochures were dropped off at all the houses where no one answered the door, it is impossible to know what these homeowners ultimately did with that information.  Only time will tell.

Finally, although the benefits of urban trees are well established there still appears to still be a hesitancy to opt into Hamilton’s Free Street Tree Program.  By opting to sign up for the program you are taking positive action to assist with the greening of the urban landscape while fighting the effects of climate change and building happier and healthier communities.  If you are still unsure about signing up or you remain skeptical about the process of signing up, then let me leave you with this.  One of the five households that ultimately signed up on the spot was a mother of 6 boys!  She answered the door carrying her infant son, with a toddler at her feet.  After happily agreeing to sign up for the program, she had successfully signed up to receive a tree in less than 2 minutes.  The survey is that quick and easy!

We would like to thank everyone who signed up for a free tree and to those who are considering, click this link for more information.

If you own a property in Hamilton and are interested in signing up to receive a tree, planted and paid for by the city, please visit www.treeshamilton.ca to fill out a formal request form.  Alternatively, you can call 905-546-CITY (2489) or email treeplanting@hamilton.ca.