City staff have developed an urban forest action plan, that if implemented would see an almost 50 percent increase in the number of trees in Hamilton. Currently the urban forest covers just over 21 percent of the city and staff are recommending a program that would see that number increase to 30 percent. Staff conducted rounds of public engagement in 2018 and 2019 and the feedback clearly indicated that Hamiltonians love their trees, want to see more of them and want better protection for the existing trees. Respondents felt a private tree by-law to regulate individual trees, as well as incentives to protect trees, was essential. They also wanted better implementation of tree protection measures during development and better compensation when trees are removed.
Some interesting facts about Hamilton’s urban forest:
- There are 5.2 million trees in Hamilton’s urban area, with 97 species documented;
- Canopy cover is currently 21.2% based on 2017-2018 data;
- Canopy cover was 22.1% in 2006-2007;
- Over ten years, canopy cover has not significantly decreased or increased;
- Open space areas (54%) have the highest canopy cover; industrial areas have the lowest canopy cover, at 2.3%;
- 67% of the leaf area of the urban forest is native species and 29% is invasive species;
- The average diameter at breast height (dbh) of all trees is 12.3 cm; mature trees are not well-represented;
- There are an estimated 168,610 street trees, which have a replacement value of $500 million;
- Street trees have an average dbh of 25.1 cm.(10 inches)
One of the best places to look at a wide variety of trees is Gage Park which has nearly 50 species of trees. Hamilton is located in the upper reaches of the Carolinian forest zone, which means the region can sometimes support warm climate trees like magnolias, Kentucky coffeetree and sassafeas—all of which exist at Gage Park. Many of the trees were planted as part of landscape architect Howard Dunnington Grubb`s master plan, after the city purchased the former Gage Farm in 1918; and, indeed, dotted around the park are groves of now towering Austrian pines, intended to look accidental, but in reality were carefully planned to provide the optimum vistas for the visitor– typical of what some considered Grubb`s “fussy“ style of landscaping.
Some of the trees however, date back to a much earlier period, when the Gage ancestors were originally settling the land around 1800. Included in these is a grove of copper beeches located inside the west side of the park opposite Maplewood Avenue. A Mississauga tree expert who was hired in 2008 to recommend measures that could be taken to preserve the 200 year old trees wrote, it is very likely that the beech trees in this grove were planted as early as the 1780`s or 1790`s.