Kingston’s Tree Deficit

by Peter Stroud

Tree Deficit

  • 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

  • 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.
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