Advertisement

Owen Sound applying to become a Tree City of the World

Article content

Owen Sound wants to become a Tree City of the World.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

City council recently passed a motion to apply for the international certification, which is part of a global effort aimed at recognizing communities that are committed to ensuring their urban forests and trees are properly maintained, sustainably managed and celebrated.

“It’s really about recognition and about putting Owen Sound on the map with respect to our forestry operations,” said Adam Parsons, manager of parks and open space.

“I think one of the other forestry techs I spoke to in an Ontario municipality put it best when she said it’s essentially a badge of honour. Since we’re doing good things with trees and we’re being recognized for it, it puts Owen Sound on the map with respect to the positive work around trees in the city.”

Representatives of NeighbourWoods North, which organizes volunteer naturalization and tree-planting projects in the Owen Sound area, made a presentation on the Tree Cities of the World program to the city’s community services committee in April and asked the city to consider applying for the designation.

The committee asked for a staff report on the benefits of participating in the program and how the city could apply.

Council endorsed that recommendation and Parsons presented his report July 7.

On July 19, council approved a committee recommendation to direct staff to apply for the designation.

Shawna Macivor, who led NeighbourWoods North’s efforts to encourage Owen Sound to apply, and fellow organization member Lloyd Lewis said there are many benefits to becoming a Tree City of the World.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

It’s an opportunity to celebrate the work Owen Sound has done to nurture its tree canopy, they said, and a chance for city officials to network with other communities around the world that hold the designation about best practices when it comes to protecting the urban forest.

It can also be used as a way for Owen Sound to market itself as a green city to potential residents and businesses, they said, and would provide the city with standards for continuing to develop the nature-scape around the city.

And it’s a way to make the public more aware of the importance of trees in this era of climate change.

“We are in the middle of a climate emergency – people know that. And trees are a huge, cheap and reliable way of dealing with the climate emergency,” Macivor said.

“Trees remove carbon, they shade hot areas and we need that.”

Tree Cities of the World is a program operated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Arbor Day Foundation.

Parsons’ report says the program is intended to promote the benefit of trees in cities and provide direction and assistance for developing urban forestry and tree-planting programs. It also provides certification and international recognition for sustainable urban forestry practices.

Seven Ontario cities – Cambridge, Guelph, Mississauga, Richmond Hill, Thunder Bay, Toronto and York Region – have obtained the Tree Cities of the World certification.

Parsons said Owen Sound meets four of the five core standards to becoming certified and has a plan to tick off the fifth box later this year.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

The first standard is establishing responsibility. The city must have a written statement from city leaders delegating responsibility for the care of trees within the municipality to a staff member, department or group of citizens. Parsons said in Owen Sound, that responsibility lies with the parks and open space division, which includes a manager and two certified arborists.

Certified municipalities must also have a bylaw or policy in place that governs the management of trees and forests and includes penalties for non-compliance. The city’s shade tree bylaw includes rules for managing trees in Owen Sound, while its updated strategic plan includes an objective for Owen Sound to offset 100 tons of carbon dioxide by planting 100 hardwood trees annually. Owen Sound’s official plan also includes policies for development and landscaping, Parsons said.

The third standard is to have an updated tree inventory, so an effective long-term plan for planting, caring for and removing city trees can be established. Owen Sound has a GIS-based inventory of individual trees on city boulevards and park areas. It includes 6,500 trees.

The fourth standard is to dedicate an annual budget for the routine implementation of the city’s tree management plan. Parsons said council allocated $168,250 in 2021 for urban forestry management, has two arborists on staff and has a fleet of vehicles and tools to assist with forest management work.

The only criteria the city does not meet is “celebrate achievements,” which requires certified municipalities to hold an annual celebration of trees.

Parsons said the city is planning to hold a tree celebration virtually this year, which is permitted by the Tree Cities of the World program due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and could hold an annual in-person event in 2022 and beyond.

Parsons said there is no cost to apply to be a Tree City of the World. Certification must be renewed annually.

Latest National Stories

Advertisement

Story continues below

News Near Owen Sound

This Week in Flyers