Downtown Bureau

We Need to Invest More in Hamilton's Tree Canopy

This would seem to be one of those rare win-win issues. The public wants more trees and the city knows we need more trees.

By Jason Leach
Published January 14, 2014

The Spectator has run a great series of articles recently on the state of our tree canopy. Last August I suggested we follow the Portland approach and plant much more than 6,000 trees per year if we ever hope to reach the universal goal of 35 percent tree cover.

This is not a new idea. As you may recall, the Spec had a 'One Big Idea' contest back in 2005 and the winning submission as voted on by its readers was 'plant more trees'.

Even without damaging ice storms and invasive beetles, planting only 6,000 trees per year will simply not get the job done.

I don't know if we need to simply double or triple the city's tree budget, or work with some local foundations to get more trees in the ground.

As you can see from the links in that RTH article from August, the heat island affect in urban Hamilton's Code Red neighbourhoods is astronomical- worse than Downtown Toronto.

Heat island effect in Hamilton (Image Credit: Clean Air Partnership)
Heat island effect in Hamilton (Image Credit: Clean Air Partnership)

Many folks live in apartments and old homes with no air conditioning in this part of Hamilton. Cooling and greening those neighbourhoods would be one more piece to the puzzle of increasing the quality of life.

When I'm in Toronto I'm always struck with the great tree canopy on its old urban streets, and the lack of parking pads and mini-driveways.

I think Hamilton should look to add green boulevards between the sidewalk and street on many of our major streets that have way too many lanes. We can take back a lane or two on streets like Main, Wellington, Victoria and so on, and plant trees in front of every single property.

Wellington Street North (RTH file photo)
Wellington Street North (RTH file photo)

Toronto did something similar on Lansdowne Avenue a few years ago. This would seem to be one of those rare win-win issues. The public wants more trees. The city knows we need more trees.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Rimshot (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:44:27

... like the quarter-million trees planted in Red Hill Valley after the parkway went in.

facebook.com/HamiltonBBMan/posts/515477285167661

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2014 at 11:58:26

20°C difference between riverside and concrete wasteland? 20°C? I didn't think that was even possible.

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By TreeHugger (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:11:27

This is an issue that needs far more attention, and resources, devoted to it in Hamilton.
Thanks for raising it Jason.

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By Norm (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2014 at 12:46:18

Victoria would be a perfect street to start this with. There's already some beautiful trees that canopy the street close to Barton, but if the city would convert it to a 2 way, add bike lanes and use the extra sidewalk space to line it with trees it would be completely gorgeous and provide some much needed green to the area. Many of the homes on the street are quite stately as well so it would truly help showcase the potential the neighborhood has. I imagine it looking somewhat similar to High Park Ave. in Toronto in a perfect world.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 14, 2014 at 14:15:32

This article summarizing new research just came into my feed from Atlantic Cities:

Ian Alcock, one of the researchers on the green-space study, summarized his group’s findings this way... "When people move to a greener urban area, they experience an immediate and sustained improvement in their mental health," he says. He notes that the observed effect differs from the quick but transient boost that, say, getting married can deliver. "Their mental health improves straightaway, and that improvement endures, at least for the three years that we were able to follow them."

So we can add improved mental health to the list of benefits that come from a full urban tree canopy.

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2014 at 18:08:04

how about the city and horizon team up and provide incentives for conversion of suitable flat roof areas into green roof systems? there are some pretty low tech, low cost ways of going about it that would simultaneously reduce electricity use in summer, reduce storm runoff, increase air quality, and deal in a major way with heat island effects.

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By TreeHugger (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2014 at 00:50:00 in reply to Comment 96787

Given that every flat roof in the lower city can be seen by those on (or coming down from) the escarpment, I can't think of a better place anywhere to institute an extensive green roof program! However, we still need more focus on preserving and enhancing a healthy tree population and full canopy (including enforced by-laws on to maintain the existing stock please).

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted January 15, 2014 at 05:55:06 in reply to Comment 96791

i agree fully. i don't see it as an either/or proposition, i floated the idea as something that would see immediate improvement of the city health while the tree canopy develops. trees are such a beneficial long term investment but unfortunately its an investment that takes years to mature.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 15, 2014 at 10:14:19 in reply to Comment 96795

Yes and no. Planting new trees is only half the battle. The other half is preserving the mature trees that we already have, and we're not doing nearly enough. We need tree-cutting bylaws with teeth, and pro-active enforcement. We also need to invest more in tree-pruning, which is as backlogged as our infrastructure schedule at the moment. In fact the city should regard trees as critical infrastructure, if it doesn't already.

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By Stinson (registered) | Posted January 16, 2014 at 15:38:58

Request a tree for your property here: http://www.hamilton.ca/CityDepartments/P...

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