Trees have always been an important part of the landscape on this planet and the lack of trees anywhere is immediately noticeable.
Just how important they are is constantly being redefined. From experience, we know that they are generally aesthetically pleasing and provide welcome shade. For centuries, certain species have been used to drain swamps so that land could be developed and to eliminate disease-carrying mosquitos.
As climate change mitigation becomes increasingly important, trees are recognized as absorbing harmful greenhouse gases and producing oxygen in their place.
Some Canadian municipalities are documenting their “green infrastructure” in an attempt to quantify their value and ensure their numbers and their health through strategic management that includes bylaws, policies and replanting programs.
Ashcroft Communities in Bloom is encouraging the Village to form a joint committee to develop an Urban Forestry plan for Ashcroft.
The group conducted their own tree inventory of the downtown area in 2012, but Andrea Walker says there is much more to do in terms of tree management.
Many cities have embarked on an Urban Forestry strategy, said Walker.
“Ours doesn’t have to be a Cadillac model,” she said, “but we should know in advance where we can plant trees, how are we going to replace diseased or nuisance trees. If you have a plan, you know.
“Obviously, trees give us the oxygen we breathe, they clean the air, they give us shade, give us aesthetics. Think, where do people go on a hot day? To the park. Why? For the shade and the trees. What would it look like to drive down the street in a town without trees?”
She said urban forestry management is a large component of the national Communities in Bloom program and the lack of an overall plan by the Village has cost the Ashcroft group points every year.
Kamloops lost over 1,100 pine trees to pine beetle infestation. The city is working on its own Urban Forestry Plan. Trees improve residential property values, according to the draft plan, lowers the temperature around them as well as in nearby buildings, reduce storm runoff by capturing water on their leaves and absorbing the water through their roots, provide wildlife habitat for birds and other creatures, and offsetting climate change by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide in their tissues. The plan states that one tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air – the equivalent of 11,000 miles of car emissions.
Tree roots also stabilize hillsides and prevent the soil from moving.
Walker says it’s not enough to just plant a tree.
“We don’t have any native trees here,” she said, “but when you plant a tree you want to get something that won’t use a lot of water.”
She says a strategic plan would be a perfect fit to the Village’s new Water Conservation bylaw.
“The public needs education on what they can plant that won’t require a lot of water,” said Walker. “People often don’t pay attention to what they’re planting.”
Cedars and willows are “water suckers” she says. Junipers are not.
And then there are the local “nuisance” trees like the prolific Chinese elms and the messy cottonwoods. Kamloops has identified five species of nuisance trees in its draft plan.
A plan would also give some thought to the best places to plant trees.
The trees along Railway St. don’t have enough room to grow, she says. They’re surrounded by concrete, and there is concrete under their watering zone which is where the rainwater drips off the ends of the branches.
The group would also like to see a public works member trained in tree care.
“It will be expensive,” she says, “but they will be an asset to the town, just as the trees are.”
The proposed joint committee could start just by identifying nuisance trees to be replaced.
“All we want is to make our community a better place,” said Walker. “That’s the ultimate goal for CiB.”