Greening our City
A city that is green and vibrant not only has aesthetic benefits but also important environmental factors.
That is why the Corporation of Hamilton is taking measures to ensure that the City of Hamilton is constantly replenished, even if it means replacing some trees.
“We are rejuvenating the City and actively making a detailed inventory of the trees that are currently in the City,” says Steven DeSilva, superintendent of parks at the Corporation of Hamilton. “We now know how many trees and species and the condition they are in. We have identified those trees that are in need of replacement with a healthy tree that fits that location.”
Over the coming year the team will be working to add to the trees, as well as replace those that have been damaged or are less appropriate for the City streets.
“We have a team of five who will be working throughout the year on this project. It will be a 12-month process with a break in August because of the heat.
“We currently have 900 trees that line Hamilton streets. At its height there were close to 1000. That number fluctuates if a tree is damaged in an accident, which thankfully only happens occasionally, or if there needs to be a replacement that is more appropriate for that location. By default we are definitely going to exceed 900 trees lining the streets,” Mr DeSilva explains.
Because Hamilton is constantly expanding and growing and there are many requirements for the City to function properly, some trees have outgrown their current locations.
“We have some very old trees that are very big a lot of these trees have had trauma which degrades the tree and causes a safety issue to the general public. They have been chosen as a candidate for replacement.”
Along with larger trees with broad canopies, what goes on underground can also cause problems.
“The other side of the process is what happens underground with the root bulbs. We know what size they will be and how that can affect the supply to the City which has to be considered.
“The safety of the public and improved vehicle movement at intersections in the City means that some trees have been selected to be replaced. This has to be done for safety,” he adds.
The safety of the tree is also important and some of the younger trees that are being planted as replacements will need some protection until they have fully matured.
Those younger trees that are planted near vehicle parking will have tree guards added to their trunks.
“We have acquired tree guards specific for our City that are similar to those seen in Europe. It’s a circular column that encompasses the young tree to help it grow above the danger zone. They are eventually removed but people will start to see those going out before the spring,” explains Mr DeSilva.
When looking at the varieties of trees to add to the City streets, the team found that native trees were the best for the environment.
“The study we conducted identified native and endemic trees that are best for the environment,” Mr DeSilva says. “Certainly Cedar, Southern Hackberry and Bermuda Palmetto have their place in our City. We know that natives fare better after a high wind event they don’t have the same loss of leaves or suffer from salt and windburn. There are certainly some trees that don’t do well in high winds and that is part of our criteria when we select trees.
“But there is wiggle room to include those trees that have a stature that will fit into the environment. While we increase the greenery in Hamilton we are very selective in what trees we choose. We’ve had to take a look at the False Ebonies that line East Reid Street and we’ve been appreciative of the feedback from the public and that they really like those trees. But they grow really large and don’t have their place in certain locations.”
While aesthetics are certainly top of the list for adding more greenery to Hamilton, there are other factors that play into the beauty of trees lining the City streets.
“The right tree in the right area can become a wind block and defect high winds,” says Mr DeSilva. “It also helps disguise or camouflage the facades of buildings that don’t look that great. Most importantly, during the summer months certain parts of the City are in full sun and it would be a very uncomfortable place to be if there were no trees.”
The interaction with nature of those who frequent Hamilton has also been considered in the City’s rejuvenation, says Mr DeSilva.
Jubilee Park in North Hamilton will be the first place the team will grow fruit trees, which they also hope to roll out into the rest of the City.
“It is beneficial for people to interact better with the non-built environment,” says Mr DeSilva. “We want people to come into the City and not feel that they can only look at the trees but if they want to pick a loquat or a Surinam cherry then that is a good thing.”
Additionally, the vision for Jubilee Park is to turn it into an arboretum with a “verdant, rolling landscape”, says Mr DeSilva.
“One of the ideas is that the street trees complement the trees in our parks. We have several healthy parks that we maintain and we are always looking to improve on them,” he adds.