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LIFE: Losing the hood (Summer 2019)

July 16th, 2019 · No Comments

Tree canopy of Harbord Village depleted by 20 per cent

By Nabahat Hussain

A thorough tree inventory in Harbord Village shows that the neighbourhood’s tree canopy has decreased by 20 per cent in the past 12 years. This rate of decline is similar to that of trees in the Annex, north of Bloor.

According to the Harbord Village Residents’ Association (HVRA) database, in 2007 Harbord Village was home to 6,386 trees. Today, almost 30 per cent of those trees are gone with 4,552 left standing.

Leah Ritcey-Thorpe, a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Ecology and Forestry program,  conducted the inventory. 

“We have an age gap in our forest,” says Ritcey-Thorpe. “There are a lot of large trees reaching their end and not a lot of trees to replace their canopy size. The next 5 to 10 years will be a transitional period in the areas canopy.” 

The HVRA’s past chair, Rory (Gus) Sinclair, says the first step to getting bigger trees planted is to raise awareness about the current situation.

“Nobody is thinking long-term, people want something pretty they can see right away so they buy ornamentals and shrubs,” says Sinclair. “People need education on the value of planting a tree that won’t reach its desired size for another generation or two. It doesn’t offer the immediate payoff of an ornamental, but it is a very nice thing to do for your community.”

Besides planting new trees, Sinclair says that removing paving from around a tree’s base is a great way to extend its life.

University of Toronto forestry professor Sandy Smith agrees. She suggests that the City of Toronto follow in Mississauga’s footsteps by taxing homeowners for the amount of land they decide to pave. 

“These surfaces put a huge load on the sewer system,” she says. “They increase the cost of maintenance and cause sewage overflow in the lake and in basements.”

However, Smith adds that the reason for the canopy decline is mostly due to the fact that many of the local trees are close to a hundred years old.

That said, the benefits of trees in the city are clear. As stated by the City of Toronto’s street tree brochure, trees “clean the air, reduce stormwater runoff, provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, and enhance the urban landscape.” 

Professor Smith also brings up capturing carbon, intercepting air pollutants and salt pollution, and cooling. 

“As the climate heats up, we need to cool,” she says. “Nature’s best air conditioner is a tree.” 

Former HVRA chair and federal green party candidate Tim Grant seconds that claim

“It’s better for keeping summertime temperatures lower. Some places are at least 5 degrees Celsius lower if they have good tree canopy compared to places that don’t.”­

The City of Toronto’s goal is to increase the tree canopy to 40 per cent. To help make that happen, they’ve launched the Every Tree Counts campaign which offers neighbourhood grants starting at $10,000 for tree-planting initiatives (Every Tree Counts); a program to ensure trees planted along major roadways are planted in a way to ensure their health and survival over the long term (Street Tree Trust); and native tree give-aways for individual homeowners (Tree for Me).

As of June 12, the Tree for Me program gave out 3,218 trees to Torontonians. More tree give-away events are coming up.

To get more information on Tree for Me visit


FOCUS: Annex’s old trees will soon be history (Spring 2019)

Tags: Annex · Life