Look­ing for in­put

Com­mu­nity group work­ing with Wool­wich to de­velop a 20-year green­ing plan for Elmira’s trees

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - FAISAL ALI

WHEN THE LAST OF the ash trees that lined Elmira’s main thor­ough­fare fell prey to the emer­ald ash borer and were cut down in 2015, the core may have lost a por­tion of its charm and char­ac­ter.

There have been a num­ber of tree-plant­ing pro­grams by a va­ri­ety of com­mu­nity groups to help make Elmira greener, but now one group is work­ing with the town­ship to cre­ate a sin­gle uni­fied plan for the town that will guide th­ese dis­parate projects over the next 20 years.

In draft­ing that plan, the group is ask­ing for the pub­lic’s in­put at a meet­ing Mon­day night at Trin­ity United Church.

“This is peo­ple’s chance to con­trib­ute ideas that any­one who lives in this com­mu­nity I’m sure at some point or an­other has said: ‘Why don’t they blank, blank, blank?’” said Su­san Bryant, chair of the com­mit­tee be­hind the project, the Elmira Green­ing Ini­tia­tive.

“They say it to us,” added Inga Rinne, a fel­low com­mit­tee mem­ber.

“Or, ‘why did they?’” said Bryant. “So this is their chance to say, ‘OK, here’s what I feel I’m miss­ing in this com­mu­nity, or that I think will en­hance life in this com­mu­nity.’”

Bryant and Rinne are mem­bers of the Town­ship of Wool­wich En­vi­ron­men­tal En­hance­ment Com­mit­tee (TWEEC), a vol­un­teer group that’s an of­fi­cial com­mit­tee of town­ship coun­cil. The group hired an en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tancy firm, Nat­u­ral Re­source So­lu­tions Inc., to cre­ate a plan that the com­mu­nity can work to­wards in Elmira over the next 20 years. The hope is that once the plan is drafted, it will be of­fi­cially adopted by the town­ship.

It’s still early to say what a fi­nal plan might look like, but there are a num­ber of ques­tions for the pub­lic to con­sider. Where would peo­ple like to see trees and green spa­ces, parks and benches in Elmira? What are the pri­or­ity lo­ca­tions? What va­ri­eties of trees and plant life do peo­ple want to see?

One of the dis­ad­van­tages to the uni­form ash trees planted along Arthur Street was that they were all sus­cep­ti­ble to the same dis­ease as well. Re­mov­ing the stricken trees back in 2015 was es­ti­mated to cost the town­ship $6,000. With lim­ited re­sources avail­able to de­vote to green in­fra­struc­ture projects in the town, Bryant and Rinne say a plan can help avoid un­nec­es­sary ex­penses like that, and en­cour­age

fru­gal spend­ing of time and money in the fu­ture.

A fi­nal green­ing plan for Elmira could also af­fect by­laws for places like park­ing lots by re­quir­ing cer­tain lev­els of tree cover per park­ing spot, they sug­gest. There could also be re­quests to change the rules for fu­ture de­vel­op­ments in the town­ship, like al­ter­ing the amount of green­ery needed for res­i­den­tial con­struc­tion.

The po­ten­tial im­pact on lo­cal busi­nesses is why the group is keen to hear not only from the res­i­dents, but the busi­ness com­mu­nity in Elmira too.

It’s not all rules and reg­u­la­tions, how­ever. There is an eco­nomic ad­van­tage for busi­nesses in Elmira, says Bryant, based on the stud­ies she’s read, by hav­ing a greener and more invit­ing down­town core.

“They say that the eco­nomic ben­e­fits are 10 to 15 per cent more busi­ness be­cause you’ve got pedes­trian traf­fic and you have an at­trac­tive down­town where there is some green shade and beauty. You just get more peo­ple want­ing to visit,” she said.

There are en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, with added tree cover im­prov­ing air and water qual­ity, com­bat­ing cli­mate change, im­prov­ing soil’s water ab­sorp­tion.

“This green in­fra­struc­ture is go­ing to hope­fully ad­dress our ways of re­duc­ing the runoff in the ur­ban area,” said Rinne. “So, you know, you get your thun­der­storm, you get all this water that washes all kinds of less-than-de­sir­able stuff off of the roads...”

“...into peo­ple’s base­ments, for one thing,” con­tin­ued Bryant. She adds that some of the newer sub­di­vi­sions in Elmira do have stormwa­ter man­age­ment ponds to deal with runoff, but the older down­town area in Elmira does not.

“So ga­so­line and rub­ber bits and trash and chem­i­cals – what­ever lands on the roads ends up go­ing straight to the creek. So if you have, say, swales of trees in the mid­dle of the park­ing lot prop­erly planted, that ab­sorbs a lot of that (water).”

The Elmira Green­ing Ini­tia­tive is not a project unique to the town. Bryant and Rinne point to plans in other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, like the Welling­ton County’s Green Legacy Pro­gram, which be­gan in 2004 and has been able to plant more than a mil­lion trees since, ac­cord­ing to the county’s web­site. Within Water­loo Re­gion, the city of Kitch­ener has be­gun con­sul­ta­tions on an ur­ban forestry plan to im­prove upon their lo­cal green in­fra­struc­ture.

“I think the grow­ing recog­ni­tion is that just like roads and bridges and sew­ers are in­fra­struc­ture, our trees and green spa­ces are in­fra­struc­ture as well, and have an im­por­tance as well be­yond the ‘oh, isn’t that pretty?’” said Rinne.

TWEEC has been ac­tive in the com­mu­nity since 2004, or­ga­niz­ing tree plant­ings and com­mu­nity clean-ups with the help of lo­cal vol­un­teers. One of their projects has been to plant one tree for every per­son in Wool­wich; at the mo­ment, they’ve planted 22,916 trees, Rinne noted.

The meet­ing for the Elmira Green­ing Ini­tia­tive will be on Septem­ber 25 at 7 p.m. at the Trin­ity United Church, 21 Arthur St. N. The meet­ing will be fa­cil­i­tated by two ur­ban forestry ex­perts, Katha­rina Richter and Brett Wood­man, from the en­vi­ron­men­tal con­sul­tancy group.


Su­san Bryant (left) and fel­low com­mit­tee mem­ber Igna Rinne will be tak­ing part in a pub­lic meet­ing Mon­day about the Elmira Green­ing Ini­tia­tive.

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