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The following article was on the BBC News website last week. It’s definitely worth repeating. Its clear that Guelph is not the only city dealing with a drastic decrease in its urban mature tree canopy.

Calls To Green The ‘Concrete Jungle’
Mark Kinver, Science and Environment Reporter, BBC News
June 30, 2010

Trees can play an essential role in improving the quality of life in UK towns and cities, a report has said.

The Woodland Trust says planting more trees has been shown to improve air quality, reduce ambient temperatures and benefit people’s health.The trend of declining tree cover in many areas needs to be reversed in order to improve access to green spaces in urban areas, the study adds. The trust is also launching a campaign to plant 20 million native trees each year.

“Towns and cities tend to put into sharp relief some of the key problems we are facing as a society,” said lead author Mike Townsend. “So they are a good place to start when try to illustrate just where green spaces can deliver significant improvements for relatively little cost.”

The issues outlined in the report included physical and mental health problems, childhood obesity, air pollution, soaring summer temperatures, flash flooding and diminishing wildlife.

The trust estimated that 80% of the UK population live in urban areas, yet less than 10% of people have access to local woodlands within 500m of their homes.

“If you look back over history, Victorian times saw a real move towards parks and street trees; some of the big street trees that you find in our cities today go back to these times,” explained Woodland Trust conservation policy expert Sian Atkinson.

“What we have seen more recently is that there has been reduction in the number of trees being planted, and there has also been a loss of the lovely Victorian trees with big canopies,” she told BBC News.

“We are starting to miss these from our towns and cities, and not enough thought has been given to replacements and to ensuring that there is going to be enough tree cover in the future.”

‘Slow the flow’
The report also highlighted the role urban trees could play in preventing flash floods.

Ms Atkinson said: “Hard surfaces in towns and cities have increased in recent years, and we are seeing more flooding. One of the problems is surface water drainage. It has been shown that trees and woods are key to help control this sort of flooding. As well as absorbing groundwater, tree canopies help reduce the volume of rainfall hitting the ground and relieve pressure on urban drainage systems.”

She called on civic planners to address the issues highlighted by the report.

“There is quite a lot of talk about green infrastructure,” she observed, “and our message is that we hope that trees and woods are a really big part of that.”

In its Programme for Government report, the coalition government announced that it would initiate a national tree planting campaign.

During a speech in May, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “If any organism has demonstrated an ability to multi-task, it’s trees. They capture carbon and hold soils together, prevent flooding and help control our climate. They also add immeasurably to the quality of life of our towns and cities.”

She added that in some parts of inner London, it was calculated that each tree was deemed to be worth as much as £78,000 in terms of its benefits.

Ms Atkinson welcomed the government’s announcement: “The UK has very low woodland cover compared with the rest of Europe. We are actually looking for a doubling in native woodland cover. There are some areas that have more cover than others, but – overall – there is quite a big job to do in order to increase tree cover to a level that provides all the benefits outlined in the report.”

To coincide with the publication of the report, the Woodland Trust is also launching a More Trees More Good campaign, which will look to plant 20 million native trees across the UK for the next 50 years.

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Guelph’s urban forest canopy sits at 25%, while the desired level  is 40%. Guelph citizens have now been waiting for a new stronger protective tree by-law for over 19 years. In the meantime we continue to lose canopy.

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have been advocating for our urban trees, including a strong protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

For more information, visit www.guffguelph.ca

Please contact Mayor and Council about this issue. Tell them that our mature urban trees need their help and support. Tell them to get the Strategic Urban Forestry Management Plan completed and a strong and comprehensive protective bylaw passed.

Contacting Guelph City Council

Mayor Farbridge: mayor@guelph.ca

Ward 1: Bob Bell bob.bell@guelph.ca, Kathleen Farrelly kathleen.farrelly@guelph.ca
Ward 2: Vicki Beard vicki.beard@guelph.ca, Ian Findlay ian.findlay@guelph.ca
Ward 3: Maggie Laidlaw maggie.laidlaw@guelph.ca, June Hofland june.hofland@guelph.ca
Ward 4: Gloria Kovach gloria.kovach@guelph.ca, Mike Salisbury mike.salisbury@guelph.ca
Ward 5: Lise Burcher lise.burcher@guelph.ca, Leanne Piper leanne.piper@guelph.ca
Ward 6: Christine Billings christine.billings@guelph.ca, Karl Wettstein karl.wettstein@guelph.ca

Don’t know your ward? Click here to see the map

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In the first hour of CFRU93.3fm’s Royal City Rag on July 10, Judy Martin from Sierra Club Canada joined us with an update on some important environmental issues affecting the city.

1291 Gordon  Street is a proposal for a condo development at the corner of Edinburgh Road and Gordon Street, and impinging on a provincial significant wetland that forms part of the Hanlon Creek Watershed Complex.

This development is very significant for the community because it will give us the first indication of how seriously the city will protect our natural areas, as it comes to terms with the huge amount of growth that Guelph will experience under the provincial growth plan Places to Grow. By 2031, under Places To Grow, which mandates intensification within current city limits in an attempt to curb sprawl, Guelph’s population will grow from 105,000 to 165,000.

As Judy pointed out in her elegant address to the council planning meeting on July 5… this development proposal provides inadequate wetland buffers and is contrary to the Provincial Policy Statement in that it does not show that there will be “no negative impact” on the provincially significant wetland.

Indeed although the report prepared by city staff states that the 30-metre wetland buffer is appropriate for the site and that wetland function will not be impacted by this development… the (city prepared) Hanlon Creek Watershed Plan recommended 120 metre — not 30 metre– buffers for this wetland stating that this is “an area of rare plants & aquatic vegetation sensitive to disturbance.  Wide buffer required to protect vegetation from influx of salts and nutrients.  The buffer should include upland open area next to road to provide upland habitat for wildlife.”

Simply put, 30 metre buffers will not protect wildlife habitat. Wood frogs and spring peepers have been found in this wetland.  These frogs spend most of their lives on land, not in the water.

Fortunately, when this development file came to a planning meeting on July 5, council had the fortitude to send the proposal back to staff with a request for more information on the environmental impact of this development.

Although intensification and infill development are important to make sure that the city does not sprawl uncontrollably, the question is at what price?

According to Judy, adequate buffers (minimum 100 metres according to Environment Canada) are essential if we are to retain our natural areas, greenspace and biodiversity.

It is for this reason that the final arbiter on development with the province, the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), recommends a buffer of 120 metres.

That legislation is governed by ‘the precautionary principle’ which states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.

The intent is to protect… all of the biodiversity, all of the functions of our valuable remaining wetlands.   If this means 100 metre buffers or more,  and puts some areas off limits for development, that is the imperative.

Even the Places to Grow Act recognizes that the environment should take priority:

“if there is a conflict between a direction in a growth plan and a direction in a plan or policy . . . relating to the natural environment or human health, the direction that provides more protection to the natural environment or human health prevails.”

Unfortunately you have to question what the priority is here.

Read the full text of Judy Martin’s address to City Council HERE (right click to download)

You may also want to check out Royal City Rag contributor Bob Gordon’s article on using buffers to minimize the environmental impact of development.

The City of Guelph Natural Heritage Strategy comes back to city council on July 27.

Our conversation with Judy Martin was not restricted to the 1291 Gordon St. development proposal. Judy also outlined why it is important that city council pass a stronger tree bylaw. Many municipalities have stronger and more comprehensive tree bylaws than Guelph.

Guelph citizens have been waiting for a stronger tree bylaw for more than 20 years. In the meantime, the city continues to lose canopy. Currently Guelph’s urban forest canopy sits at 25%, while the desired level is 40%.

Clearcutting on the Carson Reid Property, June 2009

Unfortunately the current tree bylaw, from 1986 (view), states that it is an offence to injure or destroy any living tree in the City of Guelph but does very little to actually protect them.

The new bylaw (view the current draft) will be a significant improvement  however it is in danger of being weakened by intensive lobbying from the development community.

As Judy pointed out, the city’s intent is not to prevent homeowners from removing problem trees, but, rather,  to bring our bylaw in line with municipalities, such as Toronto and Richmond Hill, that are using best practices to protect their mature urban trees.

City Staff will be bringing an updated draft of ther proposed bylaw to the Community Development and Environmental Services (CDES) committee on July 19.

For more on this very important issue please visit Guelph Urban Forest Friends at www.guffguelph.ca.

If you missed the interview with Judy, you can find it via the link below. Its well worth a listen. If it inspires you then please speak out. Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will thank you for it.

Listen:

Download (Right click and save)

Music:
The Unthanks, Because He Was A Bonny Lad from Here’s The Tender Coming
Loudon Wainright III, High Wide And Handsome from High Wide And Handsome, The Charlie Poole Project
Danny And The Champions Of The World, Henry The Van from Streets Of Our Time

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Bob Gordon

Weird Numbers Part 2: The Natural Heritage Strategy Tree Replacement Equation or ‘Two Tens for a Five Anybody?’
Bob Gordon, Freelance Journalist/Royal City Rag Contributor

The Draft Natural Heritage Strategy includes a tree replacement policy that contains two components. The first compenent establishes that any trees removed must be replaced and introduces an equation to calculate the replacement value of a given tree. The second, introduces the concept of cash in lieu of trees.

Unfortunately, the first component is nonsensical while the second is meaningless.

The current draft policies require that if a tree is removed trees totaling an equal diameter must replace it. The example below will demonstrate the absurdity of this mathematical reasoning.

Consider first the removal of a tree of 40 centimeters diameter at breast height. The current policy would permit this tree to be considered replaced if 8 saplings of 5 centimeters diameter at breast height were to be planted.

Briefly consider the area of the tree removed (40 centimeters diameter at breast height). Area = πr2 = 3.14 x (20×20) = 1256 square centimeters.
The area of the 5cm diameter saplings replacing it will be πr2 x 8 = 3.14 x (2.5×2.5) x 8 = 157 square centimeters.

Thus, removal of one tree of 40 centimeters diameter at breast height can be compensated with its replacement by 8 saplings (of 5cm diameter) but only 12.5% of its area.

Now consider replacement of the tree by 16 saplings of 2.5 centimeters diameter at breast height.

The area of these trees will be πr2 x 16 = 3.14 x (1.25×1.25) x 16 = 78.5 square centimeters.

Half Dead Oak Sapling - Now you see me, now you don't!

Thus, removal of one tree of 40 centimeters diameter at breast height can be compensated with its replacement by 16 saplings (of 2.5cm diameter) but only 6.25% of its area.

Clearly, the proposed policy is inadequate.

Comparison of the areas of the crowns of the trees would reveal an even greater imbalance. Leaf Area Index or Canopy Cover is a much more accurate measure. Using this type of measure would significantly increase the number of replacement trees required.

At the very least basal area (area at ground level) should be employed as the replacement standard.

The draft Natural Heritage states, “Where planting either on or off site is not feasible, cash-in-lieu will be required equal to the value of the replacement trees and shrubs and including the cost of planting and maintaining the trees for a period of two years.”

While this proposal may sound wonderfully ‘green’ and hard on developers it is not, nor is it hard on the city. It is hard, only on the urban forest.

Consider, the cash value of a tree will be calculated based on the value of replacement trees. However, in light of the above noted formula the developer is receiving a kiss. Consider that the removal of a single tree may create a whole new building lot at the cost of only a handful of saplings. That is a great deal for a developer but hard on the urban forest.

As far as the city is concerned a cut down tree is a bargain at any price. No where does the policy hold the city to any commitment to spend the cash-in-lieu received on trees. It can go to anything from snow clearing at city hall to trips for councilors or catered meals before meetings. There is simply no guarantee that the money received in lieu of trees will be used for trees and not simply disappear into general revenue.

That is good for the city but not the urban forest.

Bob Gordon
bob34g@gmail.com

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have been advocating for our urban trees, including a stronger protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

If you feel strongly about this issue, please contact Mayor and Council.

Tell them to get the Strategic Urban Forestry Management Plan completed and a strong protective bylaw passed. Let them know that the protection and management of our urban forest will be an election issue this October.

Contacting Guelph City Council

Mayor Farbridge: mayor@guelph.ca

Ward 1: Bob Bell bob.bell@guelph.ca, Kathleen Farrelly kathleen.farrelly@guelph.ca
Ward 2: Vicki Beard vicki.beard@guelph.ca, Ian Findlay ian.findlay@guelph.ca
Ward 3: Maggie Laidlaw maggie.laidlaw@guelph.ca, June Hofland june.hofland@guelph.ca
Ward 4: Gloria Kovach gloria.kovach@guelph.ca, Mike Salisbury mike.salisbury@guelph.ca
Ward 5: Lise Burcher lise.burcher@guelph.ca, Leanne Piper leanne.piper@guelph.ca
Ward 6: Christine Billings christine.billings@guelph.ca, Karl Wettstein karl.wettstein@guelph.ca

Don’t know your ward? Click here to see the map

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On January 25, CBC Radio 1’s Ontario Today’s Gardening Phone-in with Ed Lawrence focused on the management of urban trees and the need for stronger by-laws to protect them.

Guelph activist Diane Hurst was not only able to call in to talk to Ed, she also managed to get us a copy of the audio to put up on the website.

Well done, Diane! 

Listen to the segment:

Large Elm Tree

Guelph citizens have now been waiting for a new stronger protective tree by-law for over 19 years. In the meantime we continue to lose canopy. Guelph’s urban forest canopy sits at 25%, while the desired level  is 40%.

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have been advocating for our urban trees, including a stronger protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

If you feel strongly about this issue, please contact Mayor and Council.

Tell them to get the Strategic Urban Forestry Management Plan completed and a strong protective bylaw passed. Let them know that the protection and management of our urban forest will be an election issue this October.

Contacting Guelph City Council

Mayor Farbridge: mayor@guelph.ca

Ward 1: Bob Bell bob.bell@guelph.ca, Kathleen Farrelly kathleen.farrelly@guelph.ca
Ward 2: Vicki Beard vicki.beard@guelph.ca, Ian Findlay ian.findlay@guelph.ca
Ward 3: Maggie Laidlaw maggie.laidlaw@guelph.ca, June Hofland june.hofland@guelph.ca
Ward 4: Gloria Kovach gloria.kovach@guelph.ca, Mike Salisbury mike.salisbury@guelph.ca
Ward 5: Lise Burcher lise.burcher@guelph.ca, Leanne Piper leanne.piper@guelph.ca
Ward 6: Christine Billings christine.billings@guelph.ca, Karl Wettstein karl.wettstein@guelph.ca

Don’t know your ward? Click here to see the map

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Jan Andrea Hall

Karen Farbridge, Backstabbing And Her Bid For Re-election
Jan Andrea Hall, Royal City Rag

Since Mayor Karen Farbridge announced her bid for re-election this past Thursday, February 24, one or two of her supporters have publicly alluded to the fact that the Mayor has been “stabbed in the back” by erstwhile supporters during her current term.

They believe that, as many progressive Guelphites worked hard to get her re-elected in 2006, after a fairly dysfunctional term under Mayor Quarrie, we should not only be happy to have her back, but keep quiet and remain supportive, regardless of the decisions her council and administration choose to make.

Unfortunately not everyone can do that, and, for that reason, are shunted off into the “backstabbing” group of the disaffected.

I count myself in that category even though I am as progressive as they come.

As far as I’m concerned, Farbridge’s administration has been found wanting on all the ‘big decision items’ of the past three years… the upgrades to the Hanlon Expressway, the proposed Hanlon Creek Business Park and the Strategic Urban Forestry Master Plan (otherwise known as the urgent need for a much stronger protective by-law).

I call them the big decision items because they will have a huge effect on this city, for years to come. Progressive Guelphites choked over the previous council’s decision to support the Commercial Policy Review setting up four large shopping centre ‘nodes’ around the city. Yet, the Hanlon Expressway and Hanlon Creek Business Park decisions will have far more impact over the coming years.

Farbridge’s supporters may say that these are done deals; the Hanlon Expressway upgrades being ordained by the province through the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (colloquially known as the Ministry for Roads) and the Hanlon Creek Business Park (HCBP) by previous administrations.

But would it have hurt to question whether the right decisions were made or whether these proposed projects could have been improved upon, especially in the case of the HCBP, where the city is the primary developer?

Where was the leadership to resolve citizen environmental group concerns about Hanlon Creek?

Hanlon Creek Downstream In The Spring (Photo: Bob Gordon)

That Farbridge chose to remain silent at the Guelph Civic League convened public meeting in March about Hanlon Creek at Norfolk Street United Church suggests that she may not be cut out for high office in Guelph. Instead of offering a few words of welcome she instead chose to sit at the back with body language suggesting that she really wished she was somewhere else entirely.

The fact that council barely emitted a whimper with respect to the assumptions underlying the provincial growth plan Places To Grow, and the need for Guelph to grow from 105,000 to a whopping 165,000 people by 2031 raises questions about a serious deficit of leadership at City Hall.

The bullying tactics that have been employed to stifle opposition to the Hanlon Creek Business Park, including this week’s SLAPP suit, also raises questions about the direction the city is moving in. So much for community consultation.

We have now been waiting nineteen years for a new protective tree by-law. Farbridge talked about this as a priority in 2003 (more on this in a future commentary)yet we are still waiting. And in the meantime, we continue to lose our tree canopy.

Add to that, the fact that the City had a Transparency and Accountability Committee meet for two years to, amongst other things, discuss the important (but under the Municipal Act, currently discretionary) positions of Lobbyist Registrar, Auditor General, Ombudsmen and Integrity Commissioner only for the City’s Governance Committee to recommend against proceeding with these checks and balances until after the next election. This only raises further concerns about how truly accountable and transparent the current administration wants to be.

Is Mayor Farbridge the right Mayor for Guelph?

I went into the last municipal election in 2006 with high hopes that clearly haven’t been met. Farbridge is clearly strong on process (perhaps too strong?) but is she capable of taking the big decisions and making a stand.

I hope that if her re-election is successful she will turn back to her progressive roots and move in a truly sustainable direction. Enough of the spin and green-washing, please.

People need to consider what is best for Guelph for the next four years and beyond when they go to vote.

Mayor Farbridge may like the idea of being Guelph’s Hazel McCallion, but do we really have to look like Mississauga too?

Jan Andrea Hall
janhall@royalcityrag.ca

Royal City Rag will continue to focus on what is important for the common good as we move forward with the election. We will not shy from bringing forward issues. Expect many more commentaries on the record of the current council and hopes for the next council as we move towards the election.

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Little Art... For A Big Elm Tree

Guelph Urban Forest Friends Art Show and Sale takes places at 10 Carden, Carden St., Guelph on March 20 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The art show showcases original art, photos or poetry celebrating big tree(s).

  • All submissions must be backed or framed for hanging
  • Maximum size for each work 10” excluding framing
  • Limit of 2 pieces of work/artist
  • Cost of entry $5.00 per work
  • 25% of sale price to be retained by GUFF

Download an entry form here or pick one up at The Big Umbrella Community Information Table ( at the Farmer’s Market) on Saturday mornings.

Registration forms will be accepted at The Big Umbrella until March 19.

Please deliver art work to 10 Carden on March 19 between 7-9.30 p.m. for show on March 20.

Download the entry form

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A young mom was visiting Royal City Park with her son, where 52 mature trees deemed to be unsafe by the City of Guelph are being removed. 

She sent this sensitive account to Guelph Urban Forest Friends, who gave us permission to publish it on Royal City Rag.

My son thought that the signs on the trees were because people were saying that they were cool trees and this one (pictured) had a built-in fort (the big one that has 3 trunks all together.)

I read the sign to him, and said that the ribbons were there because these trees were going to be cut down.

He said, “Why are they going to cut them down?”

I responded, “Because they are old.”

And his profound kid response was, “Why don’t they just let them fall down?”

I smiled, at how amazing it was that a 6 year old could be so smart, and then was sad.

Sometimes the answers are so clear, but then the world puts it all upside down.

Guelph Urban Forest Friends have long been advocating for our urban trees, including a stronger protective tree bylaw and a separate urban forestry department with a certified forester to more effectively manage tree maintenance and coordinate public education on the value of our mature trees.

If you feel strongly about this issue, please contact Mayor and Council. Please help us try and stop the tree removal in Royal City Park from happening elsewhere in the city.

Contacting Guelph City Council

Mayor Farbridge: mayor@guelph.ca

Ward 1: Bob Bell bob.bell@guelph.ca, Kathleen Farrelly kathleen.farrelly@guelph.ca
Ward 2: Vicki Beard vicki.beard@guelph.ca, Ian Findlay ian.findlay@guelph.ca
Ward 3: Maggie Laidlaw maggie.laidlaw@guelph.ca, June Hofland june.hofland@guelph.ca
Ward 4: Gloria Kovach gloria.kovach@guelph.ca, Mike Salisbury mike.salisbury@guelph.ca
Ward 5: Lise Burcher lise.burcher@guelph.ca, Leanne Piper leanne.piper@guelph.ca
Ward 6: Christine Billings christine.billings@guelph.ca, Karl Wettstein karl.wettstein@guelph.ca

Don’t know your ward? Click here to see the map

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