A grove of cherry trees near the entrance to Bayfront Park was the prettiest place to be in the spring. That’s why people swarmed to stroll under the pale pink flowers, and take selfies.
I saw the same tree love at the RBG when the cherries were in bloom.
Trees are powerful but they are in trouble.
That’s why the City of Hamilton is mapping out an Urban Forest Strategy.
Our trees are under attack from bugs, diseases, climate change, invasive species and development. In the downtown core, where the Urban Forest Strategy is critical, trees are suffering from soil compaction, vandalism, and pollution.
“It needs work,” Steve Robinson, the city’s Superintendent of Forestry said at a recent urban forest open house. “It’s a huge focus, we need lots more trees in the ground. The goal is a 35 percent tree canopy.”
The tree canopy is at 17 percent now in the urban core. The goal is to reach 35 percent by 2030.
To map out a plan, the city is spending $150,000, starting with the hiring of three consultants who have started a tree inventory.
“They are doing random samples, collecting information on species diversity and tree health,” Cathy Plosz of the planning and economic development department explained at the open house.
Of course the public is invited to add their own “sticky note strategy” to the urban tree plan, and they were doing just that at the May open house. Public support for big trees, trees to attract birds, and trees to clean the air is pretty unshakeable.
Even though the backlog of tree pruning by the city has been reduced from seven years to five, according to Robinson, it’s a pretty sobering thought how newly planted trees fend for themselves. A new line of trees planted at James Street North at Burlington Street are looking worse for wear. Some have only leafed out in the lower branches, leaving lots of deadwood. “After we plant, we won’t get back to those trees for five years,” Robinson confirms.
This fend for yourself era is why we see trees with bags full of water strapped to them, so they can self water. Another lamentable development with the city street trees is the addition of a rubber skirt around the base of the tree. It allows water and air to the roots, but looks miserable in my opinion and is often in shambles after one season.
After consultants file their reports, and the public has their say, the city aims to have the Urban Forest Strategy presented to council in spring 2019. In the meantime, be kind to your trees. A hug is ok, but a drink of water is likely better.
For more information go to www.hamilton.ca and search Urban Forest Strategy.