New Edinburgh is a neighbourhood of stark contrasts. Standing at the intersection of Crichton Street and Dufferin Road it is easy to observe the difference trees make in an urban neighbourhood. Looking north toward Charles Street, numerous mature trees growing from both private yards and the public boulevard colour the landscape. Toward Beechood Avenue, a lifeless asphalt capped boulevard defines the view.
A variety of architectural styles, structural densities, and demographic realities colour our urban experience. A short walk through New Edinburgh reveals a vibrant mosaic of human intervention. Although the neighbourhood canvas has been repainted numerous times since its founding, evidence of a once densely forested landscape remains. Growing from private and public property, urban trees form part of a living infrastructure that continues to bind the blocks between Sussex and Beechwood. Like most urban systems, the New Edinburgh urban forest requires ongoing management to ensure its health.
Trees are an imperative element of a livable urban environment. A regular sequence of mature trees along a streetscape has measurable benefits. Residents of a well-treed neighbourhood enjoy increased property values, enhanced energy efficiency of buildings, better public safety, improved air quality and reduced atmospheric greenhouse effect. Ultimately, decisions concerning trees in both the public and private realms have impacts that reach across legal boundaries. Given the importance of trees to the quality of our community, collective initiative must be taken to ensure the ongoing stewardship of this shared resource.
Best practices in urban environmental design suggest that street trees should be planted at regular intervals of between 6 and 8 metres along both sides of neighbourhood roadways. In New Edinburgh this equates to approximately one tree planted in front of every dwelling.
Current traffic concerns of New Edinburgh residents may be addressed in part using street trees. Plantings in close proximity to a roadway serve as a traffic calming agent by creating the perception of a compressed roadway among motorists. By locating street trees in a boulevard between the curb and sidewalk (as is found along Crichton Street) pedestrians are afforded a degree of physical protection from vehicles.
An ongoing study of New Edinburgh’s urban forest reveals significant breaks in the sequence of trees that contribute to the overall quality of our living environment. The New Edinburgh Committee On the Environment (NECOE) commissioned survey identifies hundreds of specific locations within the neighbourhood where new tree plantings could occur. The New Edinburgh Tree Planting Plan acts as a baseline against which to measure our community’s cooperative effort to increase the number of neighbourhood trees growing along our roadways. The Plan also identifies public lands where extensive tree planting initiatives should be prioritized. (A draft of the plan is available for download at: www.newedinburgh.ca)
Fortunately the City of Ottawa shares New Edinburgh’s goals for a stronger urban forest. The city has undertaken an initiative to plant 100,000 trees within its bounds between 2007 and 2010. Through the Trees Reforestation and Environmental Enhancement (TREE) Program residents and community organizations have an opportunity to enhance the local urban forest at no cost. A variety of species and sizes of trees are available every spring and fall. You can register to receive a free tree to plant on your own property by telephone or the internet (613.585.2400 or www.ottawa.ca/residents/healthy_lawns/forestry/tree_program/). Since a limited number of trees are available each season, registration should be done early to avoid disappointment.
NECOE hopes that residents will take full advantage of the City’s TREE program and support the community effort to increase the number of trees growing on private property in New Edinburgh. Over the course of the coming months, NECOE will continue to work on behalf of all neighbourhood residents to encourage the planting of new trees on public lands. NECOE is also working to develop a position on the preservation of mature trees in New Edinburgh.
(This post was written for the December 2008 edition of the New Edinburgh News.)