Saskatoon organization wants fix to 'weakness' in tree-planting program
The SOS Tree Coalition says the city’s tree replacement policy lets too many properties fall through the cracks.
On Monday, board member John Penner presented a proposal from the coalition to change the city’s tree replacement service from an opt-in, to an opt-out.
“We are in the business of promoting the urban forest both in terms of trying to expand the urban forest and to protect existing trees,” said board member John Penner.
Under the current system, trees are only removed if they become hazardous, or diseased or infected to the point where they can’t recover, said City of Saskatoon director of parks Darren Crilly.
“Right now the service level is, if a resident wants a replacement tree, they can opt-in when there's a removal done adjacent to their property on the boulevard.”
The city's environment, utilities and corporate services committee chose on Monday to stay with that level of service rather than changing to opt-in, which Penner says creates holes in tree replacement.
He says last winter a mature elm tree across the street from his house was cut down, and when he asked for it to be replaced he was told the request had to come from the owner of the adjacent property, and that request never came.
“There have been other cases in our neighborhood where a tree was removed, but somehow the message didn't get through to the property owner that they had to actually request the tree placement,” he said.
“That’s the weakness of the program, is there to many things that fall through the cracks.”
Penner says it would be more effective to have the city replace trees automatically, unless residents don’t want them.
“Make the onus on the owner to opt out and that we should treat the street trees more like public property and public assets, and for the benefit of everybody,” he said.
Crilly says the city is planting as many as 800 new trees a year.
Depending on the size of the tree, he says planting could cost between $400 to $800, and as much as $300 in water costs over a three-year period to establish the tree.
“I think they're doing the best they can with the resources they have, but I think city council really needs to allocate more resources to the replacement of trees and also to the encouragement of trees in new subdivisions,” said Penner.
Penner says aside from the positive aesthetic benefits, getting more trees into the ground will help in the fight against climate change.
“There's the increasing habitat for wildlife, also mitigating summer temperatures,” he added.
“Trees also add to humidity because there’s transpiration that occurs, so the trees not only absorb carbon dioxide from the air, they also release water vapor into the air, which can also aside from shading, can cause cooling.”
Crilly says the city is looking at some potential projects that review planting programs, and those will be brought forward to city council for future consideration.
This story has been updated with the correct spelling of John Penner's name.