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Plan for more trees takes root | The Chronicle Herald

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http://thechronicleherald.ca/hcw/112912-plan-for-more-trees-takes-root

Plan for more trees takes root | The Chronicle Herald

There are about 160,000 trees lining the serviced streets of Halifax Regional Municipality. But there are 90,000 more spots where trees once were or could be.

And the city is losing trees to illness and old age faster than it’s planting new ones.

A group of HRM staff and Dalhousie researchers are imagining a Halifax with a lot more leafy cover than it has now, and their years of research have finally grown into a concrete plan that they are nearly ready to submit to regional council.

“If you start to add up all of the benefits you get from each tree you have in the city, you’d be astonished. You’d wonder why we wouldn’t have more trees,” said Peter Duinker, a Dalhousie forestry professor who’s leading the school’s work on HRM’s Urban Forest Master Plan.

“Every tree, as long as it’s not in a really bad location, like its roots are clogging up some pipes every tree is providing such an amazing array of benefits,” he said.

They shade cars, sidewalks and houses, lowering energy costs. Their canopies hold a considerable amount of water during rainstorms, allowing it to evaporate without hitting the ground and relieving pressure on the sewage treatment system.

Trees are a surefire hit on front lawns and raise property values — and tax revenues — just with their picturesque existence, said Duinker.

Knowing that, his team has documented certain parts of the municipality that are without their fair share of trees.

The area of the northern peninsula around Kempt Road has very few. That’s troubling because they would shield commercial buildings from sun and wind, saving energy costs, said Duinker, who has spent several years working on the project, the first of its kind in Halifax.

Certain newer developments, including parts of Cole Harbour, have lawns and wide streets, but lack any tree canopy, he said. He’d like to see “maybe a little less grass and way more trees.”

“There’s not a tree to be seen in large subdivisions, and that’s not a good scene,” said Duinker.

The Urban Forest Master Plan will give the municipality options of starting a tree giveaway or an education campaign to encourage homeowners to plant saplings.

At around $500 per planted tree, the cost is likely to be a little high for the city to fund its own at the volume that’s needed, said Duinker.

The tree population is dropping every year, with HRM planting 1,500 trees annually. If it planted 5,000 a year, the cost would be $2.5 million, though costs would drop somewhat if city staff provided all the labour.

The city will also consider whether to forbid homeowners from cutting trees without a permit, a system that several other Canadian cities use. The idea has been met with a mixed reaction at public meetings in Halifax, he said.

Duinker and his team think decades ahead. In 20 to 30 years, Halifax risks losing much of its older tree population, and hurricanes also create a risk of major tree loss that makes it important to keep up with planting, he said.

But planning for the future also has its benefits. While Halifax’s trees today are 80 or 90 per cent Norway maples, elm and linden trees, the urban forest team envisions different species everywhere, including many more native trees, like red oak and sugar maple.

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Written by vaphc

July 2, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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