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GREENINGS: Our trees are in crisis (Feb. 2023)

March 27th, 2023 · No Comments

ARA to resurvey all the trees in the Annex 

By Terri Chu

There’s a lot to love about the Annex: cultural vibrancy, a wide variety of local independent businesses, walkability and trees. 

Can you imagine this place without the big, beautiful maples? The streets would feel empty and dystopian. 

No one wants to imagine this future, but with the latest Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) tree survey and its preliminary results, it has become all too clear that we can no longer afford to take local trees for granted. 

This 400 year old oak tree off Spadina Avenue is one of the oldest trees in the city. GLEANER FILE PHOTO/COURTESY MICHAEL LOW

The ARA just completed the first tranche of the 10-year resurvey of its trees. 

Thanks to two students from the University of Toronto’s forestry program, the trees were redone. The students did a fantastic job. 

The results were less so. It is in fact, devastating. 

In 2011, there were 2139 trees on Bathurst, Albany, and Howland streets. Of those trees, only 1603 of them still exist. 

With a full 25 per cent of the trees missing, it’s fair to say we are in a crisis situation.

We are down over one in four trees and we can’t even blame this on construction. There hasn’t been very much development in this area over the last four years other than the Bianca; however, that was previously the Wing’s factory and there were not many trees lost to construction. 

Many local trees are now nearing the end of life, however, many more are finding it hard to survive under very stressful conditions. 

Pollution in the area is high, and tree roots are often covered with asphalt. 

Trees are so important for a liveable community. 

Researchers have found that residents who live in heavily treed areas have lower instances of heart attacks and other heart health risks. 

Trees absorb excess rainwater and reduce the chances of flooding. 

Trees also provide evaporative cooling (in addition to shade.) This means in the urban heat island that is this concrete jungle, trees help keep us cool—a critical function as climate change ravages our cities. 

Instead of protecting the liveability of this city, the leadership has been making it worse. Trees are little more than an afterthought in planning and development. Mayor Tory has given priority to cars at the expense of all else. 

For a song, a car owner can get highly subsidized parking and leave their vehicles all over the city cheaply. 

Meanwhile, a family of four pays over $20 to use public transit two ways. No wonder families are choosing cars over transit. 

Every unnecessary vehicle trip is another pointless stress on our tree canopy, a stress on our lungs, and congestion in this city. 

Study after study has shown economic upticks when car space is given over to people, yet our old school leadership can’t get their minds out of the 70s and are actively holding us back. 

There’s absolutely no reason why it should cost more to use public transit than it does to park a car. Our subsidies are going the wrong way to the detriment of all of us. 

We need to take a hard look and ask ourselves why we want to put more congestion on our streets, more nitrous oxide in our air, and more sulphuric oxide in our children’s lungs. 

If this isn’t the kind of city we want, we need to ask ourselves why we let corporate-led municipal leadership create these policy failures for us. 

We absolutely cannot afford to lose our urban forest. The city promised that it would increase the urban canopy to 40 per cent by 2050; instead, we see a drop in canopy coverage of around 22 per cent. 

We need the city to step up its efforts and keep its commitment. Residents cannot be left to do this alone. Some homeowners already spend thousands a year to maintain trees and not every neighbourhood is lucky enough to afford this. 

Without the data that the ARA and other similar organizations collect, it will be nearly impossible to hold the city to account and have any hope of forcing the city to live up to its commitments to protect and enhance our tree canopy. 

The ARA is raising money to hire this summer’s forestry students to continue this work. 

If you can, please be generous. We have a $15,000 goal to get two students working this summer. 

To make a donation go to 

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy and distinguish environmental truths from myths.


Tags: Annex · Life · Opinion