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NEWS (SEPTEMBER 2016): Help grow the urban forest

September 15th, 2016 · No Comments

Program matches residents with native trees

PHOTO COURTESY?MICHAEL?LOW: This old burr oak tree on Spadina Road reflects Toronto’s aging tree canopy. The Toronto Park and Trees Foundation is working to distribute trees throughout the city so that the urban forest will continue to thrive well into the future.

PHOTO COURTESY MICHAEL LOW: This old burr oak tree on Spadina Road reflects Toronto’s aging tree canopy. The Toronto Park and Trees Foundation is working to distribute trees throughout the city so that the urban forest will continue to thrive well into the future.

By Summer Reid

A campaign aimed at increasing the city’s tree canopy from 28 to 40 per cent is coming to the Annex this fall.

Part of the Every Tree Counts campaign, Tree for Me matches residents of Toronto with a native tree suitable for their desired planting area. Under the program 109 trees have been given out since its launching with a successful pilot event in May.

“Our goal is to increase plantings on private land by providing residents with a free, native tree and the resources to ensure it is planted and cared for correctly,” said Margo Mullin, community engagement coordinator of the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation (TPTF) in an email.

Tree for Me’s community outreach begins this fall, but the organization plans to run events each spring and fall in several communities across the City of Toronto. This year it is targeting the Annex, Parkdale, Rockcliffe-Smythe, Junction, and Riverdale communities. Its goal is to distribute 75 to 100 trees per event, culminating in a total of 400 new ones planted across Toronto in October. It’s also a great opportunity for community associations to educate residents about the importance of preserving and planting trees as well as build capacity for tree planting and care programs.

“As the program grows, we hope to have community groups reach out to us and apply to host their own Tree for Me events,” wrote Mullin, who said that the TPTF is initially working with community associations that already have the capacity to host its tree distribution program.

According to the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) website, maple trees make up about 30 per cent of the Annex trees. There are approximately 10 different types of maple, though the non-native and invasive Norway maple or Acer platanoides makes up 42 per cent of the canopy. If the Norway, which grows aggressively fast and overcrowds the native trees like the sugar maple, continues to outnumber local trees, there will be no more maple syrup.

It’s one of the many reasons that the TPTF is focused on planting native trees, which are characterized as species that grew in southern Ontario before European settlement. They require less maintenance: since they do not need extra water, they are typically drought resistant, and, since they are acclimatized to the local insect population, they do not need any pesticide spraying.

Native trees, such the sugar maple, also limit the chances of non-native species invading our local ecosystem.

Many trees in Toronto are being damaged by urban development, the expansion of city infrastructure, and the day-to-day activities of Torontonians.

Some threats to our urban forest are over-fertilization, contamination of de-icing salt, drought, not enough sunlight, poor soil quality, damage from lawn equipment, improper pruning, trunk wounds, and severed roots from construction.

“We have to get people to think about maintaining that tree canopy,” said Terri Chu, an ARA member who also writes for The Annex Gleaner. “We have a lot of trees in this neighbourhood and they will be hitting end of life very soon, so we’re going to be getting a lot of bare spots if we don’t start planting now.”

Trees are critical to a neighbourhood’s health. They provide wide-ranging benefits and environmental services such as energy conservation, soil protection, the preservation of wildlife habitat, storm water management, filtration of water and air, and storage of carbon.

Neighbourhood trees also lower household energy consumption by cooling temperatures from 10 to 50 per cent, provide $28.3 million in ecological services every year, and can increase property values by as much as 20 per cent.

Residents who would like to receive a free tree for their property from the TPTF are asked to participate in a 20- to 30-minute tree planting and care workshop before receiving a tree. Every participant will leave with information packages containing more details about the specific tree species and a review of the planting and care techniques taught at the workshop. Tree recipients are encouraged to keep in touch with the TPTF and chronicle how their tree is doing by sharing photos and stories on social media.

Click to register for a free tree. Tree pick-ups have been scheduled for Oct. 5 between 3 to 7 p.m. at the Bloor-Borden Farmers’ Market.



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