Imagine a conversation like this:
Councillor: “How many pickup trucks do we have?”
Public Works Official: “No idea.”
Councillor: “How many will need replacing in the next five years?”
Public Works Official: “No idea.”
Councillor: “What’s the annual cost of running our fleet?”
Works Official: “No idea.”
Nobody would stand for answers like these when it comes to pickup trucks, buildings, computers or most other assets owned by a municipality.
But thanks to Neighbourwoods and its band of dedicated volunteers, we have the answers for an equally valuable community asset–our trees.
Until recently, most people didn’t think much about our trees. They were simply part of the landscape to be trimmed or cut down. Most trees were planted by NGOs and homeowners. [Tell why we should we think more about trees. Who plants them now?]
Managing our trees starts with an understanding what we have: What species? Where? What size? What condition?
Some large municipalities can hire consultants and foresters to answer these types of questions. In our community, NeighbourWoods is doing the job.
In 2009, after day-long training by the forester team of Andy Kenney and Danijela Puric-Mladenovic , our band of 15 volunteers set out to record 31 variables about every tree in 6 blocks in Elora and 2 in Fergus.
Seven years, and 9,000 trees later, we are still at it. We’ve learned a lot. For one thing, we no longer venture into backyards, partly because trees on private property are generally healthy and don’t need us to defend them. By sticking to front yard and boulevard trees, we’ve been able reach more householders and collect more data about public trees.
How does the inventory help our trees?
– to determine what to plant in order to increase the diversity of our urban forest to ensure we still have tress when the next blight comes to town (think Dutch Elm Disease and now, the Emerald Ash Borer killing our Ash trees.). Right now the bulk of our urban forest is made up of cedars, maples and spruce trees
– Where are there opportunities to plant new trees
– Where are their trees that might be hazardous so we can inform the Township.
– Determine the value of our urban forest which underscores why it merits attention and Township’s resources. The replacement value of our trees is pegged at more than $12 million dollars- and counting.
Data aside, the inventory is an excellent outreach tool because every home visited receives a flyer in advance and a thank you bookmark as we leave encouraging residents to take care of their trees.
In 2016 we begun revisiting our original to reassess the trees to record any changes that have taken place since 2009. For example, how many trees have we lost, whether they have they been replaced and are the existing trees healthier or in worse shape. Dr Puric-Mladenovic is producing a report summarizing the changes.
Volunteers are essential!
None of this would have been possible without our dedicated volunteers who contribute about two hours/week for eight weeks every June and July. They measure, assess and record data about every thousands of trees. They are led by our two enthusiastic, cheerful summer students, thanks to the Canada Summer Works funding from the Government of Canada. The Township of CW contributes funding to cover the cost of data analysis. This is truly a community effort!
This year our Summer students are Joe Atkinson and Nichole Ewen who are leading our volunteers: Greg Boland, Ruth Robinson, Elizabeth Stinson, Larry Deans, Sandy Cressman, Bob Mino, Mark Kozalowski, Jim Bailey, Don Evoy, Dave Tinker, Tom Hinks and Nancy Wood.