City Studies Plan to Plant 100,000 Trees in the Next Ten Years

Hats off to St. Catharines City Council who passed a motion requesting staff to prepare a work plan for planting 100,000 trees over the next ten years. The motion was brought by Coun. Kevin Townsend on April 25th and passed unanimously. The plan was to be developed with a corporate-wide focus and include costing and staffing requirements. “A hundred thousand over ten years is an ambitious goal, but it’s definitely one that’s certainly achievable in our community,” said Coun. Townsend.

Della Trojan, Chair of Friends of Walker’s Creek, spoke in favour of the motion, telling councillors that there are many areas that can be reforested, including using the trees as buffers in new developments. “The simplest thing a person can do to combat climate change is to plant a tree,” said Trojan. She suggested costs can be lowered by the city partnering with community groups and the conservation authority. Ms. Trojan and Coun. Bruce Williamson both emphasized the need to budget for a maintenance program to ensure the long-term success of the plan.

Coun. Greg Miller asked staff to be realistic about the city’s capability to meet the 100,000 target when they bring back a report. “I certainly support and want to do it and will be happy to commit the resources to it, I just hope staff are going to be honest with us about our capability because we don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver.”

The City of St. Catharines already has the best tree-planting program in the Region. The current goal, initiated in the 2010 Urban Forestry Plan, provided a road map for achieving 30% canopy by 2030.  However with the destruction caused by the Emerald Ash Borer and the indiscriminate removal of trees by developers and private property owners, it will be very difficult to reach that goal. 

The specifications for the current program are very good to exceptional, however as with all good plans, we can do more. In fact, with climate change looming over us, it is essential that we do more. Additions to the policy that would go a long way to helping us meet our goal would include:

  • Increasing the number of varieties of trees.
  • More aggressive boulevard planting. Currently, it is only by request.  We should populate every vacant boulevard and replace any tree that is removed.
  • We need a comprehensive forestry management plan that addresses general tree health.  Most trees are planted through a contract that has a 2-year guarantee. Once that contract expires there is very little tree maintenance such as pruning. Trees should be pruned in 5-year cycles to ensure proper growth patterns. Many junior trees have been lost, especially over the past several years, due to lack of water.  A dedicated Drought Protection Program would solve that problem.
  • Include plans for planting trees on private properties. There are approximately 300,000 trees in St. Catharines with approximately one-third, or 100,000 trees on City property. The remaining 200,000 are on private property. There is not enough available planting space on municipal to support 100,000 new trees. It is therefore paramount to the success of this program to populate plantings on private properties and promote plantings on available greenspaces such as schools and churches. Enhancing the City’s current (very successful) tree-giveaway program and creating active partnerships can be part of the solution.
  • The addition of a Private Property Tree By-law to protect large and mature trees from being removed.

The recipe for getting to 30% canopy cover has more than a few ingredients. Even if they are all combined, achieving that goal by 2030 will not be possible without meaningful changes.

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