Speaking for the trees: residents bring concerns and ideas to “Tree House”

By Denise Deby –

Local trees are at risk, and the community and city need to do more to protect them, according to residents who attended a March 8 Ecology Ottawa meeting to gather ideas for a new program called Tree Ottawa.

“Treed neighbourhoods are wonderful to live in, and I’m concerned about the number of trees that we’re losing,” says Sylvia Bogusis. The Civic Hospital area resident tends trees in Hintonburg parks, is helping Fisher Park Public School with tree-planting and is working to create a “Kitchissippi Trees” community group. She says the emerald ash borer, extreme weather events and urban conditions have depleted Kitchissippi’s tree canopy.

In West Wellington, horticulturalist Rede Widstrand has documented the loss of several mature trees on her block. Photo by Denise Deby.
In West Wellington, horticulturalist Rede Widstrand has documented the loss of several mature trees on her block. Photo by Denise Deby.

“To address the issue, we have to start now, because it takes so many years for trees to mature to the point where they’re healthy, self-sustaining and can provide us with all their benefits,” says Bogusis.

Cameron Laing and Janick Lorion started volunteering with Tree Ottawa after watching the city remove most of the mature trees near their Westboro home as part of its strategy to control the emerald ash borer. “To the east of Cole [near Carling], there’s hardly a tree standing,” says Laing.

“It felt like losing a member of our community that’s been with us for 20 years—suddenly the landscape changed quite dramatically,” reflects Lorion. She and Laing say although the city plans to replace the trees, new ones will take years to provide the same ecological benefits, and the city needs to increase and diversify the trees it plants.

In West Wellington, horticulturalist Rede Widstrand has documented the loss of several mature trees on her block. “I’ve been concerned, especially for the past six years, at the destruction caused by infill of our distinctive trees—our huge red maples in particular,” she says. “Our urban forest canopy is disappearing in Kitchissippi at an extremely alarming rate. It is critical that the city enforce the tree protection and conservation bylaws we have in Ottawa as other cities are doing. But this is not happening.”

Debra Huron of Champlain Park says mature trees provide fresh air, wildlife habitat and protection from climate change effects, but they’re at risk during infill construction. “The damage may take two, three years to really have the full impact, and could ultimately result in the death of the tree,” she says.

Damaging distinctive trees without a permit is prohibited under the city’s urban tree conservation bylaw, but Huron, a Champlain Oaks volunteer, says the forestry department needs to enforce the bylaw.

“An important part of what needs to be on the agenda, particularly in 2014 when we will be soon in the midst of a municipal election campaign, is to understand more about how the City of Ottawa envisions the future of our urban canopy,” says Huron.

Tree Ottawa is a five-year, multi-faceted program to encourage and support people and groups across the city to protect and plant trees and promote tree habitats.

For more information, go to ecologyottawa.ca/tree-ottawa.


Greening of Westboro Beach

The Westboro Beach Community Association is hosting a tree and shrub sale to encourage the neighbourhood to become greener and healthier. It’s also a fundraiser for the WBCA. Trees are $10.00 each, and are bare root, one to two feet in height. Trees can be ordered now for May delivery. The description of the trees and shrubs, as well as ordering information, is posted on the WBCA website at westborobeach.ca.


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