The City of Selkirk will plant 64 trees along city boulevards this fall, the first of many to be planted over the coming five years, and the policy behind the green initiative is receiving high praise from a group that leaves nothing to chance when it comes to trees.
The Trees Please Winnipeg Coalition – residents from Winnipeg neighbourhoods who lobby all levels of government to make long-term, sustainable infrastructure investment available to cities for the maintenance, diversification and expansion of urban forests – invited Selkirk to make a presentation to its board of directors. In turn, the city asked them to review Selkirk’s new Street Tree Policy, then in its draft form.
To say the folks from Trees Please were pleased would be an understatement. Erna Buffie, Interim Chair and Emma Duran-Wood, a volunteer with the coalition, say the policy is inspiring and they would like to see something similar implemented in our capital city.
“Selkirk hasn’t just taken the lead on its street tree policy, it’s leading Manitoba and most of the nation with its comprehensive climate change strategy and resiliency plan,” Buffie said.
“Putting natural infrastructure, like the urban forest, at the heart of that strategy will guarantee a safer, more resilient environment for future generations.”
Providing the greatest environmental, economic, and social benefit to residents
Selkirk’s Street Tree Policy has several objectives, including to ‘proactively manage and sustain the city’s Street Trees in an arboriculturally sound and cost-effective manner that provides the greatest environmental, economic, and social benefit to residents, to protect the city’s road infrastructure from heat and ultraviolet rays and to relieve pressure from the city’s storm drainage network by using street trees to better manage storm water.
CAO Duane Nicol says the policy provides guidance to the city and makes trees part of its critical municipal infrastructure, which therefore have to be invested in and maintained as part of Selkirk asset management.
“Over the past couple of years the city has been building its capacity to properly manage our urban canopy by training staff, purchasing equipment and getting into the habit and practice of planning tree maintenance. One of the things our policy outlines is it’s not just about planting, it’s about care for the trees after,” Nicol said.
“The first couple of years after being planted, to get the trees established and off to a healthy start, proper water and care and maintenance for those trees is critical. We’ll be planting a lot of trees over the next five years, and that’s a substantial investment of city staff time to do that properly, but the return on that investment is significant over the next 50 or 100 years. We’re going to make those investments and we’re going to reap the benefits for decades to come.”
18 different species makes our inventory resilient to invasive species
Dan McDermid, Director of Operations, said the city will begin planting 18 different tree species this fall on portions of Robinson, Manitoba, Agnes and Sophia.
“We used our street tree policy to determine which trees we were planting. They are Manitoba produced and there’s many different types,” McDermid said.
The policy dictates the city plant a variety of trees to diversify its urban forest to make it more resilient to invasive species as well as climate change.
“When we were developing the list of target species in the policy, we were looking for more native species that are going to thrive under the future climate conditions that we can expect here in Selkirk,” Nicol said.
Street trees need to be more tolerant to the stressors that they face being located alongside a roadway, but the benefits they provide are many. Street trees provide shade and reduce the temperature on the roadway, resulting in a longer lifespan of the road; absorb rainwater and reduce the burden on drainage systems and combined sewers; and absorb CO2 and pollutants from vehicles.
McDermid said studies also show that street trees provide a calming effect and even help make streets safer because motorists tend to reduce their speeds when travelling down a tree-lined thoroughfare.
Walkable Communities’ Urban Street Trees – 22 Benefits includes among them that street trees result in fewer mid-block crashes and that they do have a calming influence. The link to the benefits can be found on Trees Please Winnipeg’s website, treespleasewinnipeg.com.
“(Selkirk’s Street Tree policy) includes pretty much everything Trees Please would like to see implemented in Winnipeg – a strong emphasis on forest expansion, tree diversification and best urban forestry practices like timely maintenance and pruning,” Buffie said.
“Most importantly, it has a clear and sustainable funding strategy. Everyone in Selkirk should be incredibly proud of it.”