News / Edmonton

Council considering investing more in trees to double the tree canopy of the city

Trees in a city help reduce heat and and storm water runoff, staff say

City administration asks council to invest more in trees around the city.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

City administration asks council to invest more in trees around the city.

Unless council cares a whole awful lot (about trees), nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

So said the Lorax, but also the city's administration.

At the Urban Planning Committee on Wednesday, council approved the city’s recommendation to create an Asset Management Plan for the city’s tree canopy.

“I think trees were not viewed as an asset before, they were just a nice aesthetic feature,” said Gord Cebryk, branch manager for parks and road services.

City staff asked for a bigger investment in the trees planted in urban areas, so they not only remain healthy but also increase in size and numbers.

Cebryk said city trees have a lot of benefits, including heat reduction and reducing stormwater runoff, which reduces the risk of flooding.

“Most assets decrease in value, for example, you build a road and over time it will deteriorate and lose value, whereas trees are different, they actually increase in value up to a certain point,” Cebryk said.

But in order for the trees to become assets, they need to grow to a certain size to be of use. He said current soil conditions prevent them from surviving more than a few years, when the city replaces them.

“There is 8,000 trees that are in the downtown core areas that have hard surface environments where you don’t have any grass lawn area ... where you got limited soil volume,” said Chrispin Wood, manager of Urban Forestry.

He said those are the trees that are in stress right now and need to be fixed.

In a report presented to the committee, city staff recommended soil improvement technologies that would help trees thrive, even in a small amount of soil. The cost of this technology would be $10,000 per tree.

But they said the technology would help trees live a full lifetime, which depending on the species could be anywhere between 50 to 100 years, which would save money on replacement costs over time.

“What we are looking at, to not just replacing (trees) over and over again,” said Wood.

“You have to realize that the trees provide a value, and they don’t provide that value unless they reach a certain size, so not only would the replacing year after year be a cost but it you would also never be getting the value out of a tree.”

The current canopy currently covers 10 per cent of the city, but officials hope to double that.

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