OPINION – “X” Marks the Spot – Another Look at Trees

Peter Croal

Photo by Peter Croal

Photo by Peter Croal

When we walk around Old Ottawa East (OOE), the beauty of our neighborhood is enhanced by the many types of trees that grace our streets and parks. However, our walks are now often diminished by the surprising and sad realization that a red “X“ has been painted on a tree and a City of Ottawa document has been stapled to the bark explaining why the tree is destined for felling. This is happening more and more due to aging of the trees, ice storms, windstorms and insects.

While gazing at a huge silver maple on Elliot Street that had an “X” painted on it, I started to reflect on the benefits that trees have given our community over their lifespan, and the meaning of “X”. To me, “X” means something has been done wrong or is a target. It’s a negative connotation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First of all, there is the beauty of the tree and the welcome shade it provides on a hot day. There are the blazing colours of autumn and the dry rustle of the leaves in a light wind. The tree also provides sanctuary to many beneficial insects and a much needed resting spot for migrating birds. Children play hide and seek behind it or tie a skipping rope to its trunk or branches. Its roots take water out of the ground, which helps with flooding and water table height. On average, the leaves of a large maple tree produce nearly 120 kilograms of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four. And, perhaps most poignantly, a tree becomes part of our identity. It becomes more familiar to us each time we see it. Some may feel that a tree even becomes part of our family since it ages and grows as we and our children do. From a purely economic perspective, the real estate industry has calculated that a mature tree in front of a home adds $10,000.

Photo by Peter Croal

Photo by Peter Croal

The City of Ottawa would like the tree canopy target to be 40%. However, the tree canopy in OOE is currently at about 25% – and declining with each passing storm. The City has a tree initiative called “Trees in Trust Program”. If the front of your home is lacking a tree, the City is willing to partner with you to provide you with one provided you are committed to help care for the tree and if space permits. A City forestry inspector will come to your home to determine which tree species is best suited to your location. These street trees are available on a first come/first served basis and will be planted in the Spring or Fall. There is no cost to the homeowner. As the City says: “Tomorrow takes root today. Plant a tree”. A Chinese proverb states: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today”. OOE needs more trees. You can help by reaching out to the City to take advantage of the Trees in Trust Program.

So, the next time we walk by a tree with an “X” on it, perhaps what we need to silently say to it, while resting our hands on its bark, is “thank you for all you have done for our community over these many years”.

For more information on the Trees in Trust program and to get your new tree free of charge, please call the City of Ottawa at 311, TTY 613-580-2401 or go to Ottawa.ca/forestry.

Filed in: Front Page, Opinion

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