Until recently, most people didn’t think much about trees. They were simply part of the landscape, to be trimmed or cut down.
Managing our trees starts with an understanding of 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 Centre Wellington, Neighbourwoods has partnered with the Township to gather data.
Neighbourwoods© was developed in 1995 by Dr. Danijela Puric-Mladenovic and Dr. W.A. Kenney from the University of Toronto and has been used in communities across Ontario. Up until 2020, we were using the Neighbourwoods protocol to assess 31 different characteristics of each tree. Now we have merged the Neighbourwoods assessment tools with the Township’s to help us all better understand our trees and how to care for them.
12 years, and 10,000 trees later, we are still at it. We’ve learned a lot. For one thing, we no longer collect information on privately owned trees, partly because these trees are generally healthy and don’t need us to defend them. By sticking to public trees, we’ve been able to reach more householders and collect more data.
How does inventory help?
- It helps determine what tree species to plant in order to increase the diversity of our urban forest. This ensures we still have trees when the next blight comes to town (think Dutch Elm Disease and the Emerald Ash Borer). Right now the bulk of our urban forest is made up of cedars, maples and spruce trees.
- It shows where there are opportunities to plant new trees.
- It establishes where there are trees that might be hazardous to the public so the Township can address them.
- It allows the Township to create pruning cycles to keep our trees in tip-top shape.
- It allows us to see the health of our urban forest over time.
- It determines 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 $26 million dollars and counting.
Data aside, the inventory is an excellent outreach tool. Every home we visit receives a thank-you bookmark as we leave which encourages residents to take a look at their own trees.
Volunteers are essential!
Our tree inventory program would not be possible without our dedicated volunteers who contribute about two hours per week for eight weeks every June and July. They measure, assess, and record data about thousands of trees in Centre Wellington. They are led by enthusiastic, cheerful summer students thanks to Canada Summer Works funding from the Government of Canada. The Township of Centre Wellington contributes funding to cover the cost of data analysis. This is truly a community effort!