We are starting to reach beyond air quality, water quality and erosion control in our understanding of the known benefits derived from trees.
A 2015 study using data from Toronto published by a team of University of Chicago psychologists found that street trees can impact our perception of health.People living in areas with more street trees reported better health perception than those in neighborhoods with fewer trees. Regardless of their actual health, they felt they were healthier.
It turns out they really were healthier; these respondents had fewer cardio-metabolic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or stroke.
As we learn more, we can't deny the importance of our urban forest. In Thunder Bay, the urban canopy cover is estimated at 20-25 percentage of the city's land area. (In Toronto the percentage is about 26 percent.) The city's 2015 tree inventory lists 30,392 trees on public land. The vast majority are street trees.
Soon trees in your neighbourhood will be leafing out. So here's a question ...
What can you do for the trees in your yard, on your street, and in your city?
Since 2011, the City of Thunder Bay has offered residents an opportunity to learn how to train young trees through the Citizen Pruner Program.
The training – given in 3 sessions – focuses on the pruning of young street trees. It includes:
- proper pruning techniques
- the principles behind pruning
- the identification of trees in our urban forest
- the analysis of tree structure
- the basics of tree disease
- pruning equipment use and function
Thunder Bay sought assistance for the program from Tree Canada and TD Green Streets initially. It is the only city in Canada with a program that involves citizens in the ongoing care of the urban forest in this way.
The rationale for the program is simple. The cutting or removal of mature trees that are diseased or unsound has to take priority for city staff, especially when public safety is a concern. Less time is available for the care of young trees. This is where Citizen Pruners can help. Street trees greatly benefit from pruning when they are young. If structural problems are corrected early in a tree's life, it is more likely to grow into a healthy tree that will live for many years.
Once their training is completed, participants take part in evening pruning sessions – under the direction of city staff – in designated neighbourhoods. Teams of 2-3 people can prune several trees in one evening.
All participants are expected to take part in at least 3 work sessions between May and September. Volunteers find coming out to several sessions is the best way to gain confidence in assessing a tree's pruning needs. Besides, working together is fun. Citizen Pruners from previous years also join in, helping new volunteers to learn the ropes.
Picture it – an impressive 89 volunteer pruners have been trained to date; more than 730 trees have been pruned since the program began.
This could be you. You can make a difference in the health of our city trees.
The 2016 Citizen Pruner Program gets underway April 14, 21 and 28. The program is open to anyone 16 years or older. A $25 registration fee covers equipment. Participants are expected to attend all 3 training sessions and commit to 3 work sessions. To register call (807) 625-8463 or (807) 625-2696.
Visit Tree Canada to find out more about TD Green Streets and the 10,000 Trees Challenge
Visit the Ontario Urban Forest Council
Read the Trees Ontario report on the health benefits of trees - A Healthy Dose of Green