WHAT IS AN URBAN FOREST?
An urban forest is all of the trees and other vegetation in and around a town, village or city. Traditionally it has referred to tree-lined streets, but an urban forest also includes trees in home landscapes, school yards, parks, riverbanks, cemeteries, vacant lots, utility rights-of-way, adjacent woodlands and anywhere else trees can grow in and around a community of any size. Shrubs, flowers, vines, ground covers, grass, and a variety of wild plants and animals also are part of the urban forest. Streets, sidewalks, buildings, utilities, soil, topography and, most importantly, people are an integral part of the urban forest. The urban forest is, in fact, an ecosystem.
WHY ARE URBAN FORESTS IMPORTANT?
Guelph’s urban forest–the street trees, park trees, trees in river corridors and natural heritage areas, and trees on private land–are a valuable public asset which makes a significant contribution to the sustainability of the community, the economy and the environment. Our urban forest directly influences our city’s appeal and the quality of life of its residents.
Research has demonstrated a direct and positive link between urban forest and the physical and mental health and well-being of the citizens. In addition, our urban forest also contributes to the value of residential real estate: a number of studies have shown that between 10 and 23 percent of the value of a residence is related to the presence of trees on the property.
GUFF is working to raise the civic priority of our urban forest and ensure that it is valued for the important contributions it makes to the quality of life in our city and to the ecological sustainability of Guelph’s natural heritage system. We support an urban forest model in which:
- large canopy trees are highly valued
- soil health and ecologically-based design is paramount
- trees have prominence in any development scheme as “green infrastructure,” to be planned for in the same way as communication, transportation and other urban services and infrastructure.
WHY ARE WE CONCERNED?
Ideally, the urban forest canopy covers approximately 40% of the area occupied by the city but Guelph’s canopy stands at only 27.4%. More and more of our urban forest is being lost or degraded.
WHAT PRINCIPLES SHOULD GUIDE GUELPH’S URBAN FOREST MANAGEMENT?
- Recognition of the importance of the health, continuity and extent of the urban forest canopy and its contributions to providing shade, clean air and water, storm water runoff reduction, energy conservation through evaporative cooling, noise abatement, and wind reduction, all of which lead to improved public health, a better living environment and increased property values;
- Support for the protection of a connected forest system of trees, woodlands and riparian areas as key features to sustain our ecosystems and their natural heritage services and values;
- Support for the value of public-private partnerships with business and non-profit organizations in order to mobilize resources, widen funding sources and increase the understanding of the importance of trees;
- Recognition of the communal economic values that the urban forest provides for the protection of groundwater, air quality and an improved economic and social environment.
- Improved tree protection and forest restoration in developed and redeveloped areas.
- Promoting the use of native local seed stock in our urban forest to ensure its long term health.
- Encouraging and supporting neighbourhood stewardship of street trees, parks and natural heritage areas.
- Assuring that citizen input is valued and integrated into the city of Guelph’s Urban Forest Plan.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Plant a tree!
- Join our mailing list
- Call or email your city councillors and the mayor to support protecting our urban forest. Their contact info is available here.
- Encourage your local school to participate in educational programs about urban trees and forests.
- Get to know your neighbourhood group and learn about your local parks to promote urban forest issues. See the City’s website for more information about neighbourhood groups.