The Treeification of Toronto
On a clear summer’s day, if the air quality index rating is favourable and you have an opportunity of getting really high over Toronto, in the CN Tower’s Sky Pod or in an airplane on approach to the Island Airport, or even out on a high-rise balcony, you can’t help but notice—between the city’s ravine systems and leafy boulevards—that Toronto’s cityscape is populated with a lot of trees.
At certain heights, the view of the city’s green canopy is terribly impressive. Beginning at the shoreline of Lake Ontario, it seems the blanket of foliage spreads northward forever. It doesn’t of course, but in places, the expanse of green appears so dense, it’s near impossible to see the city for the trees.
By some estimation, trees outnumber Toronto’s human population three-to-one, with the most common species of tree being Sugar Maple (this explains those spectacular reds and oranges of autumn). That’s a lot of wood, and if Trees Across Toronto has its way, Toronto’s tree population will only increase. Their strategy calls for a doubling of Toronto’s tree canopy from 17% to 34% over the next forty years.
Now in its tenth year, Trees Across Toronto is the City’s tree-and-shrub planting program tasked with treeing underdeveloped and un-treed land. To date, nearly half a million trees and shrubs have been planted during various planting campaigns.
This impressive feat is accomplished through a variety of programs, including a signature event occurring annually on the final Saturday of April. On that day, rain or shine, hundreds of volunteers put shovels in the ground at four city parks and plant numerous saplings. Individuals, families, and community groups all pitch in to make this a marquee tree planting event.
If you’re a tree lover, this is all well and good; slip into your wellingtons and start digging. Say you’re not a tree lover, though? Maybe you possess only the foggiest memories from your fourth-grade science lesson, the one that taught you trees are important because, among other things, they generate oxygen and absorb CO2 and other harmful pollutants. And quite frankly, as far as you’re concerned, mucking around in a park on a Saturday morning in the springtime isn’t your thing. If this describes you, in all probability, you’re not a tree lover—you’re a tree liker. That’s okay; you can still contribute to the treeification of Toronto any day of the year, and without getting a speck of earth jammed under those manicured nails of yours.
Considering that the majority of trees growing in the city are growing on private property, the City’s Urban Forestry Services department operates a unique service providing Torontonians with a tree at no cost. Yes, a tree for free! Urban Forestry will put a tree in the earth, free of charge, on city street allowances fronting your residential property. Selecting from one of thirty-four species, your free tree will be planted in the appropriate season, either spring or fall. How about a tree in the backyard? Well, these aren’t free, but LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests), a not-for-profit organization promoting the protection and expansion of Toronto’s urban forest, does provide homeowners with trees and shrubs at subsidized prices.
If your residential property frontage consists of a twenty-eighth-storey balcony, maybe the free/subsidized tree route isn’t the way to go. You can still make a cash donation to Trees Across Toronto, or another tree planting organization and know you’re contributing in a significant way to Toronto’s growing green canopy.
Photos by bigdaddyhame from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.