Elmira green­ing plan ap­proved

TWEEC pro­posal sets the stage for boost­ing tree cover­age town­ship-wide

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - STEVE KANNON

NO ONE WOULD MIS­TAKE Elmira for the glass-and­con­crete jun­gle of Toronto, but the small, ru­ral town lags the sprawl­ing metropolis when it comes to tree cover. Where the city boasts a tree canopy cov­er­ing some 26.6 per cent of the ur­ban area, Elmira can claim just 16.3 per cent.

To make up ground, Elmira needs a green­ing strat­egy to bring that cover­age to 30 per cent, says the Town­ship of Wool­wich En­vi­ron­men­tal En­hance­ment Com­mit­tee (TWEEC). Meet­ing this week, Wool­wich coun­cil­lors agreed.

“We have a long way to go,” said Inga Rinne, chair of Trees for Wool­wich, in mak­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion to coun­cil Tues­day night.

A study launched in 2016 re­sulted in the new green­ing plan that calls on the town­ship to make tree cover­age a pri­or­ity, com­mit­ting time and re­sources to the pur­suit. In back­ing the plan, coun­cil­lors agreed to es­tab­lish a time­line for reach­ing the 30 per cent cover­age, along with look­ing to free up staff re­sources to co­or­di­nate town­ship-wide ef­forts.

The limited town­ship re­sources for trees have largely been di­rected at clear­ing away dead and dy­ing trees – the re­sult of the emer­ald ash borer in­fes­ta­tion and a se­ries of ice and wind­storms – in­stead of main­tain­ing and nur­tur­ing new and ex­ist­ing trees, Rinne noted, adding that with yet more ash trees to be cut down, the low cover­age level is likely to get worse be­fore it gets bet­ter.

List­ing off a long list of ben­e­fits – re­duce stormwa­ter run-off, mit­i­gate cli­mate change by se­ques­ter­ing car­bon, pro­vid­ing shade/shel­ter to re­duce cool­ing and heat­ing bills, im­prove air qual­ity – she said trees are an as­set, rep­re­sent­ing “green in­fra­struc­ture.

“Trees pro­vide real, tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits.”

TWEEC chair Su­san Bryant added that storm runoff is an im­por­tant

func­tion of tree cover at a time when flood­ing is be­com­ing more preva­lent and dam­ag­ing.

Not­ing that vol­un­teers will do most of the heavy lift­ing, in­clud­ing plant­ing and main­te­nance, she said they’ll need sup­port, train­ing and cen­tral co­or­di­na­tion from the town­ship.

Some 23,000 trees will have to be planted in Elmira to meet the goal of 30 per cent cover­age. One of the first steps will be iden­ti­fy­ing suit­able ar­eas for plant­ing. The list will in­clude a stretch of Arthur Street in the down­town core where the ash trees have all been re­moved in the past few years, leav­ing the area de­nuded of canopy cover­age.

Gain­ing ground will re­quire the town­ship to boost the pri­or­ity of trees in its next bud­get, said Bryant.

Ann McArthur, Wool­wich’s di­rec­tor of recre­ation and fa­cil­i­ties, ac­knowl­edged her depart­ment’s limited re­sources have been used pri­mar­ily for deal­ing with dy­ing trees, start­ing with the most dan­ger­ous ones, par­tic­u­larly along town­ship trails. The cost of do­ing more will be looked at in the up­com­ing 2019 bud­get talks.

Di­rec­tor of en­gi­neer­ing and plan­ning Dan Ken­na­ley, whose depart­ment looks af­ter some town­ship trees such as those along boule­vards, said the com­mit­tee’s plan poses some “im­ple­men­ta­tion chal­lenges” in com­ing up with re­sources and a time­line to de­ploy them. He noted there’s a def­i­nite link be­tween the two: the greater the re­sources, the quicker the time­line.

That said, he added that his depart­ment is al­ready be­hind on deal­ing with ex­ist­ing ash tree is­sues.

Liken­ing him­self to the Lo­rax of Dr. Seuss fame, Coun. Mark Bau­man, long coun­cil’s en­vi­ron­men­tal con­science, said the town­ship needs to do bet­ter with poli­cies gov­ern­ing, for in­stance, the health and quan­ti­ties of soil used in new sub­di­vi­sions in or­der to help the trees planted there to thrive, with mea­sures to pro­tect the young trees from dan­gers rang­ing from overzeal­ous weed­whack­ing to road salt.

“I’m like the Lo­rax – I speak for the trees,” he said, not­ing some­one else will have to pick up the man­tle when he re­tires from coun­cil later this year. “I’m look­ing for the next per­son to be the Lo­rax on coun­cil.”

He also called for bet­ter tree-plant­ing strate­gies to avoid the prac­tice of ran­domly plant­ing lit­tle stick trees in the mid­dle of nowhere, say along­side a park­ing lot, adding he’d like to see more space in such lots ded­i­cated to tree cover.

“Trees like friends – they like to be in a group.”

In en­dors­ing the plan, he urged coun­cil­lors to make the is­sue a pri­or­ity in the next bud­get process.

His en­thu­si­asm for the idea was shared by Coun. Pa­trick Mer­li­han.

“I don’t find it hard to sup­port this plan,” he said.

Budger de­lib­er­a­tions get go­ing in earnest early in 2019.

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