Constituents are understandably looking for an explanation on why multiple mid-block trees are being removed as part of the streetscaping project starting on July 7 within the Walkerville business district.
The plan was designed by city staff including landscape architect and horticultural expert Stefan Fediuk. It was approved by the Wallkerville BIA following consultations with BIA members over a period a several months.
Currently there are 28 tree pits within the BIA, which once held 28 trees. Three were removed long ago and six others are in decline and scheduled for removal prior to approval of the streetscaping project. They are victims of a hostile urban environment caused by small, outmoded pits with too little drainage and soil volumes that stunt root growth.
There are also three lindens on the street, and that species has been invaded by a bug and are being removed city-wide. The lifespan of these trees is short given the existing environment. The majority of those planted have needed to be replaced every four or five years.
The new plan will remove all of the remaining 16 or 17 mid-block trees to be supplanted by 21 or 22 trees in the bulb-out intersections of the five-block district, a net gain of five. The bulb-outs will provide the trees with larger pits, better drainage flows and much improved soil volumes, in other words a less hostile environment.
When the cities began planting trees in business districts in the 1980s, Stefan explains, technology was in its infancy and the pits that were installed proved to be unsatisfactory to retain the health of urban trees. For instance, with poor drainage in the pits, heavy rainfall can cause drowning.
The city is now using a modern technology called stratacells to host its urban trees, witness the trees recently planted in the bus stop areas on Wyandotte Street West near the university. This system allows the roots of the trees to infiltrate soil beneath the sidewalk, providing them with the nutrients they require to grow, thrive and survive, perhaps into the next century.
The new trees to be planted in Walkerville will be up to 10-to-12 feet tall and have a three-inch diameter. They will be of mixed species including ginkgo, horse chestnut and London Plane, and will grow up to 80-to-100 feet tall.
London Planes are magnificent trees extremely popular in urban forests around the world, including London, England and Paris, France. They will shed bark at certain times of the year, but that is actually a signal that the tree is healthy and growing.
The intersection bulb-outs provide a larger space than the mid-block spaces, improving accessibility to the stores and restaurants and removing visual blockages to signage important to merchants. The mid blocks in the new streetscaping will include street level planters and hanging baskets.
Under new provincial accessibility standards, sidewalks are required to be 2.2 meters in length and provide space for wheel chairs to negotiate. Mid-block trees, according to administration, intrude on the accessible space.
The rationale for not keeping the mid-blocks trees? Administration says it does not make sense when you will just have to replace them in five years anyway.