Wonderland of trees

On Sunday, we woke to a wonderful winter wonderland as the fog of Saturday night painted the branches of trees with a white furry hoarfrost. We often forget about the beauty of our urban forest in winter. But Sunday morning with a brilliant blue clear sunlit sky, the white trees shone in their brilliance. It was a much more common sight when the paper machines filled the skies with steam, that condensed and settled on the trees.

Our urban forest and that is all the trees and shrubs that fill the landscape in the boundaries of our community. The urban forest plays an important role in the health of Fort Frances. Our urban forest includes the trees that surround the community and fill the ravines rising from the river. The forest includes park trees, homeowner trees and shrubs.

A recent study in Toronto and Montreal discovered that five per cent of trees die each year in those communities and need to be replaced annually. It is top of mind and budgeting in those two cities as well as other major cities across North America. This year Toronto will plant 120,000 trees and will see 20 per cent of those planting die in their first year. Montreal is looking to plant annually 500,000 trees by 2030.

One might wonder why, but studies have shown that urban trees create more outdoor activities by citizens that goes to reducing stress, anxiety, heart rate, diabetes, blood pressure and creates more well-being. People walking along the river front interact with each other. The trees and park space reduce the speed of traffic, as drivers take more time to enjoy the scenery. We enjoy walking the neighborhoods in summer with a shady canopy.

But there are more benefits to an urban forest. In summer the trees help reduce the heat of the day. Through spring summer and fall, the trees help to reduce the storm water drainage by absorbing a great deal of moisture that goes to producing new growth and producing more oxygen in the air while eliminating pollution.

Clemson University did a study on the value of its urban forest. Social values were difficult to put a dollar figure to the benefits. Yet when the study was complete, Clemson put a structural value on its campus urban forest of $13.5 million. When identical studies were performed at similar size institutions, the value of the urban forest in those universities were similar.

Trees help reduce global warming. The district is not that large and the arguments that we are surrounded by forest, and we do not need to plant trees in our communities is like putting your head in the sand. We can all benefit from the tree that shades our home in summer or protects our home from the freezing winds in winter. Our community should adopt an urban forest strategy in its official plan.

Former Publisher Fort Frances Times