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ReForest London Newsletter
One generation plants the trees; another lives in its shade. -- A Chinese proverb.
The Urban League initiated a one day workshop that reviewed the apparent need, the documented solutions, the potential partners and prospective projects; and obtained the commitment of the partners to move forward with this program. This document and accompanying figures describes the StraTreegic Plan developed at the workshop to address current and long-term needs for a healthy London that will benefit by systematic and concerted tree planting.
The principal need for this StraTreegic Plan is the decline in health and abundance of trees in the City of London. Street trees in residential neighbourhoods are in need of replacement due to death, disease or the deficiency in numbers and distribution. The City of London Tree Inventory database identifies all trees and their health status and an example of this is shown in Figure 1. The need for street trees in some older areas of the City is acute; for example, the Edward Street project of Trees for London, 2003 planted trees on one city block where no trees had been at all in the fifty-year old neighbourhood. Parklands can be improved by the reduction in mown areas and the expansion of naturalized areas. Woodlands and wetlands across the City can be bulked up to form linkages to improve the function of corridors for wildlife in the natural heritage system and to protect areas important for water quality and quantity (source protection).
Figure 1: Yards and Streets
The partnership that the Urban League has purposively put together organizations whose mission objectives are aligned with meeting these needs. Partners include the City of London, the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, the Middlesex Stewardship Committee and local organizations such as the Thames Talbot Land Trust. Each organization is represented by one or more persons directly involved in the implementation of the plan; and, for the City of London, this partnership has representation at the political level and management participation from operations and planning. The Urban League of London, on behalf of its 51 neighbourhood associations, is the lead partner in the design and fulfillment of the plan.
In 1995 the City commissioned a plan for park naturalization and that study identified more than a hundred potential projects that would benefit the environment. Unfortunately, very few of these naturalization projects have been initiated due to lack of resources. In 2000 the Province approved the Official Plan through an Ontario Municipal Board ruling and Schedule B of the OP identifies components of the natural heritage system including watercourses, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife habitat and Potential Naturalization Areas based on the recommendations of the London Sub-watershed Studies, 1995. These Potential Naturalization Areas are a focus of the StraTreegic Plan.
The plan developed by the Urban League and its partners identifies a four part hierarchy of ecological restoration targets along a continuum of biodiversity measures and landscape elements within the city. At the local and personal level is the first layer of the hierarchy: yards; next, at the neighbourhood level are streets; at the community level of the hierarchy are city parks; and, lastly at the bioregional level are elements of the broader natural heritage system such as watercourses, wetlands and woodlands. The StraTreegic Plan identifies specific activities appropriate at each of these levels. Tree planting in yards and along streets will contribute to microclimate amelioration, carbon-sequestration, air quality improvement and enhanced aesthetics of the immediate environment that contributes to neighbourhood stability, enhanced property values and personal enjoyment. Park naturalization projects will provide structural diversity with the increase in the types and sizes of ground plants, shrubs and trees. Also, these naturalization projects will provide improvements in other measures of biodiversity such as species richness, species abundance, plant community richness and habitat variability. At the bioregional scale, sites identified in the Carolinian Canada Big Picture Project and in the City of London Woodlands Master Plan will be the focus of larger and more strategic projects to support the development and enhancement of cores and corridors. Together they make important contributions to the health of the environment.
The StraTreegic Plan lists locations of need for each of these four categories with details for plant selection, planting requirements along with the expected ecosystem benefits. Example maps that illustrate each of the activities at each level in the hierarchy are attached as Figures (1-4). These have been developed by a panel of experts using multiple data sources such as the London Official Plan Schedule B1, and the urban foresters database of the health status of all street trees.
Putting all these together, we see that there is a vision for thousands of street trees; there are 25 hectares of park naturalization projects in 28 City parks; there are more than 60 locations for woodland extension or wetland enhancements; and, there are more than 20 locations to establish linkages for terrestrial corridors.
Figure 2: Park Naturalization
Figure 3: Linkages
Figure 4: Headwaters and Woodlands
III Barriers and Solutions
The City of London's budget provides a reasonable allocation of resources to the routine maintenance and improvement of streets, parks (Neighbourhood, District and Natural) and supports the securement of the natural heritage system by the purchase of significant woodlands through the Woodlands Acquisition Fund. Given the competing demands within the City's budget, it is not possible for the City to meet the needs for trees and naturalization by fast tracking the planting of street trees, the naturalization of parks and the bulking up of the natural heritage system. The Urban League of London sees an opportunity to overcome this fiscal barrier through neighbourhood volunteerism in a co-ordinated citywide program that addresses each of the identified areas of streets, parks and natural heritage system.
Partnership Roles The Urban League of London knows how to co-ordinate, who to contact and who to recruit. The City in collaboration with other key partners such as the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, Trees for London, Trees for Tomorrow, and the Middlesex Stewardship Committee knows who to involve, what to plant, when to plant, where to plant, why to plant. Together these partners can contribute to the how of orchestrating community volunteers to implement this plan that contributes to the vision of a healthy community in a healthy environment.
Targets In the first year, the target is to engage a minimum of five and as many as 10 community groups in tree planting projects that the individual groups will choose. These may be in their neighbourhood such as yards, streets, or parks of may be one of the identified projects elsewhere in the City. In the second year, the target is to build on the successes of the first year and to engage a minimum of 10 and as many as 15 community groups to do tree planting projects, as above.
Outcomes We will build on the theme of the City's 150th anniversary of incorporation and its legacy of being known as the "Forest City". An essential outcome for this program is to establish the framework for and to lay the foundation to sustain this activity to achieve the objectives of a "Forest City" for the next 150 years. The long-term sustainability applies to the life of the trees but most importantly to the community participation in the welfare of neighbourhood trees, the success of park naturalization projects and to the securement of a viable natural heritage system.
Implementation Strategy The ULL co-ordinated volunteerism will build on the network of active neighbourhood and citywide community organizations. Volunteers will be enticed with the opportunity to plant trees in their own yards that besides their aesthetic appeal have a functional role in biodiversity, air quality and water quality. The list of potential projects are identified within each neighbourhood association's geographic area based on priorities and objectives for street trees (Figure 1), park naturalization (Figure 2) or sub-watershed objectives ion objectives (Figures 3 and 4). The community takes up projects based on their interest and ability to carry out the fundraising and to carry out planting preparation and post-planting maintenance.