Archive for August, 2012
On July 31st, 2012, Peter Stroud ( Sydenham District Association[SDA] and Chair of its Tree Committee) and Ariel Salzmann (Department of History, Queen’s University, Director, Annandale Condominium, founder firstname.lastname@example.org) met with Mayor Mark Gerretsen and Director of Public Works Damon Wells at 2:30 in City Hall. The mayor was slightly delayed because of an interview with CBC, but graciously spoke with us for about 40 minutes.
Stroud and Salzmann came to the meeting hoping to have three questions answered by the mayor and Director Wells.
- First, given the city’s claim to be “the most sustainable city in Canada” and its 2011 “urban forest” plan, where did the city’s trees fit into the big picture?
- Second, given the unprecedented drought, what was the city’s policy on drought generally.
- And third, what was the city’s current plan to address the dire needs of the city’s trees for water, both young and old, which were dying off in great numbers.
Salzmann put the first question to the mayor. The mayor responded by saying that there was a misunderstanding in the meaning of “sustainability”: sustainability did not mean the environment alone. It referred to a mix of economics (business), culture (entertainment), and social infrastructure. Environment was only one of the four pillars. As such trees, which he suggested counted only in the environmental category, were not as central as one might otherwise suppose to sustainability. The major noted that, by contrast, the major of Vancouver boasted that his city was Canada’s “greenest” city. [Of course, visitors to the City of Kingston website might be forgiven for not having Mayor Gerretsen’s definition in mind when they interpret the city’s motto].
Stroud would return to the subject of the value of trees later in our conversation, pointing out the economic value of trees in terms of real estate. Even the mayor admitted that he lived in house on an old, treed plot.
When in a follow up question, Salzmann asked why the city did not consider it its responsibility to undertake programs similar to those of other Ontario cities, such as London, Toronto, and Oakville in prioritizing trees in times of water scarcity and in taking the lead to educate the public about how to water them, he replied that even suggesting that trees were a priority was political decision. It required approval of council and a majority of councillors. His hands were tied. He would be happy to have us meet with councillors to set up a special meeting, but he could not do anything himself from his office.
But surely, we pressed, even if the by-laws dictated water restrictions and alternate day use of sprinklers and hoses, that did not prevent the mayor or the Director of Public Works from advising the public about need to water trees within their normal watering days and allotment; nor should it prevent the city from informing the public how to water trees in the proper fashion. Again, he told us to speak to councillors and have them take it up at council. It was out of his hands.
Director Wells stated they were doing what they could with the personnel, equipment, water and the budget at their disposal. Water costs money and water drawn from the lake requires permits, he insisted. Both Stroud and Salzmann suggested a redeployment of the summer workforce which was no longer needed for the usual tasks of mowing and maintaining lawns. They also questioned the need for the “chainsaw massacre” of old-growth trees near University Avenue to make way for the sewer.
It became apparent that the city leadership actually knew very little about the state of trees around the city. Stroud showed the mayor and the director of public works photos of dying and dead, young and old trees, around the city, including one right in front of the court house, that he had taken that the morning, on a laptop. He also informed them that many of the trees that families and friends had purchased as memorials for their loved ones were currently in terrible shape and that many had either died or were dying. To this, there was only silence.
Stroud finally asked question number 2: “What is the city’s drought policy?” Damon Wells confessed: “the city has no drought policy.”
Stroud and Salzmann had hoped to leave the meeting with the mayor promising some action, if only to know that the city had a plan in place for an environmental crisis. Although the mayor promised to arrange a meeting with potentially interested councilors and perhaps summoning an emergency meeting of council, he refused to consider using his office to take the lead on the question.
Stroud and Salzmann immediately followed the mayor’s instructions and contacted Kingston’s councillors. Several councillors have indicated their support for new measures. However, in a CKWS interview last week [“ Tree trouble”], the mayor seemed to backtrack on his earlier promise to work with council to find a solution: although he acknowledged his discussion with Salzmann and Stroud, he stated that he did not foresee any means of implementing a program for the city’s trees this summer even if council came to some agreement. Again, he did not acknowledge the importance of trees for the city’s quality of life, image, or real estate values; nor did he seem to consider the potential public safety consequences of the city’s failure to act in a timely fashion, given the possibility of dead limbs, or even entire trees, falling onto streets, sidewalks and homes.
As of today [August 9, 2012] more than a week after meeting with the mayor, the city’s website continues to give residents the wrong impression about the water restrictions with respect to trees.City by-laws do not prevent residents from prioritizing tree watering during a drought. They do not prohibit city managers – the mayor and the director of public works – from taking elementary actions to blunt the worst impact of a natural disaster on the city’s vital “green infrastructure”, including shifting normal summer upkeep of public parks from lawns to trees and providing information to the public on how to properly water trees.*
* Trees should be watered around the roots, some 1-3 feet away from the trunk at four equidistant points using a garden hose or, if possible, using a soaker hose. Large trees require approximately 10 gallons of water a week; smaller ones, 5 gallons.
by Peter Stroud
- A city is essentially a “clearcut”
- Newer areas of the City are almost entirely barren because of clearcut development method
- My estimate is that Kingston is less than 25% adequately treed
- Therefore need to more than quadruple number of trees
- Any pavement makes a tree impossible
- Individual landscaped trees are too far apart to protect each other
- In the wild trees grow in clusters, not rows– we only have this in parks
- Parkland is rarely created but often destroyed or not treed
- Parks that are not treed are rarely used by residents, especially children
- In the central section of Toronto, the extent of the urban forest has shrunk from 22 per cent in 1992 to 16 per cent in 2004, in spite of having a tree advocacy office and program led by a municipal councillor.
Trees Are Cheap
- Current size city plants cost $100-$300 typically
- Young saplings cost one-thousandth that amount, ie 10-30 cents each but require protection for years
- Maintenance needs are minimal if properly managed, ie species selection, mulch, etc.
Trees Are Popular
- A mature tree increases the property value of any home (see below)
- SDA (Sydenham District Association) Tree Fund gets thousands every year, from just one electoral district
- SDA Tree Dedication Ceremony July 11, 2012 was attended by all dignitaries that were invited (MP, MPP, Deputy Mayor, Councillor, Sisters of Providence), plus staff, patients, and close to 100 community members with minimal publicity– the week of the event only and mostly by e-mail
- SDA Tree Map has almost 2000 views already and has had almost no publicity
- Near unanimous support amongst residents
Trees Have Real Health Benefits
- Breathe in CO2, breathe out oxygen
- Absorb pollution– ie. Belle Parks
- Shade prevents exposure to harmful UV and sunstroke
- Have been shown to have a positive effect on depression
- Green areas encourage physical exercise
Trees Have Real Civic Benefits
- increases property value by $14,500 per street tree
- Trees are very visible and tangible, within seconds of arriving in the city
- Help make city more desirable for new residents and students
- Reduce energy consumption– ie air-conditioning
- Aesthetically pleasing to all
- Give a sense of pride in the community
- Every year, healthy trees grow bigger, giving a sense of optimism
- Helps tourism
- Improves the city’s reputation
Drought Costs Us Trees
- Newly-planted trees die. Most vulnerable first three years
- Older trees don’t grow, lose branches and limbs, “go backwards”
- Urban trees more vulnerable than rural due to adverse soil conditions, pollution, higher temperatures, etc.
- Effects of drought not immediately visible: much is evident the next year
- Model should be to water new trees twice a week during summer months
- Rainfall does our job for us, but only when adequate amounts ie >25mm per week in summer
- To measure rainfall, place a rain gauge within the watering area and stop when 25 mm of rain has collected. Alternatively, you can use a small empty tuna can, and stop watering when it’s filled halfway.
- July 2012 had only one day of adequate rainfall and exceeded 30 degrees five times
- Inadequate rainfall just makes the roots turn upwards making them more vulnerable
- Drought happens during summer when people are very busy or away
Drought Is Very Cheap To Manage
- 25 cents a week estimate per tree for watering with city water
- City crews assigned to grass-cutting can be switched to watering during drought
- Residents could do most of watering if properly informed
- Tree-watering Alert costs almost nothing
Kingston’s Population and Staff Are Uninformed
- Confused by watering restrictions for lawn watering– “unhelpful red herring”
- Tree watering pattern is different than grass: more water, less often
- Most unaware that trees need water even more than grass
- Most unaware that grass that is brown is likely not dead, just dormant
- Most unaware of proper watering technique– inadequate watering is dangerous
- Using lawn-watering guidelines for trees will result in inadequate watering
Having A Green Reputation Is Earned
- Those who care about the environment show it with action, not words
- Green-minded people recognize each other, able to call out “false greens”
- Lots of “false advertising” from politicians
- A tree in the ground speaks for itself and lasts a century if properly cared for
- Green habits are learned, and last a lifetime– ie recycling
Other Cities Are Way Ahead
- London, Ontario has had a tree-watering alert the last three summers. They announced it this year on July 11th. http://www.londoncommunitynews.com/2012/07/tree-watering-alert-now-in-effect-2/
- Toronto has had City crews watering young trees in eight-hour shifts since at least July 4th this year. 15-20 minutes per tree http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/1221540–urban-forest-feels-the-burn-in-toronto-heat-wave
- In late 2004, Toronto extended a bylaw throughout the entire city, requiring residents to purchase a $100 permit for removing most trees greater than 30 centimetres in diameter from property they own.
by Ariel Salzmann
SAVE OUR TREES NOW!
The city’s response to the one of the worse droughts in half a century has been characterised by negligence, foot-dragging, and obfuscation. It has failed to water its young and old trees in city parks and streets in a timely fashion. And it still refuses to engage the public about how to properly water and care for private trees via its websites and information channels.
- No Resources? Redeploy your park workers who sit idle because there is no grass to mow. Why continue unnecessary road work – to facilitate even more pollution and traffic — in an environmental emergency? How do you intend to compensate Queen’s students and employees for the shade, oxygen, and beauty lost for the next 40 years by your chainsaw massacre of the trees on Union and Alfred?
- No Water for Trees? The reduction in recommended usage is only 20%. Trees should be given priority over lawns and flower beds. Water can be drawn directly from the lakes for tree watering in parks and along streets. Soaker hoses or 10 gallon perforated buckets with relevant instructions can be distributed to city residents for watering their own trees.
- Kingston without Trees? The city’s property values, tourism and reputation all depend on them. They are the anchor of our ecosystem and the foundation of the Kingston we will leave to our children.
- What about global warming don’t you get? “Weird” weather is the new normal. We are paying the price for short-sighted land-use policies as well as the unchecked use of fossil fuels. The decisions YOU make NOW will determine how prepared we are to face the challenges that await us.
treewatchkingstonontario.ca has been formed by concerned residents seeking to grow a green Kingston in the midst of a deepening climate crisis. We demand meaningful resident/citizen input on decisions affecting all the city’s old-growth and younger trees and an expansion of the planting of hardy, indigenous tree varieties on city property. In addition to regular care of the city’s “urban forest”, we demand compensation for the long-term losses to communities when old-growth trees are removed or destroyed by public and private developers.