Leigh Davidson, a founder of MoreTrees29, stands by a Ginkgo planted in the fall on Elmsdale Avenue.

Arborist wants citizens to improve East York tree canopy

A Toronto arborist believes the tree canopy in Ward 29 needs attention.

In 2009, the city used remote sensing equipment to examine the condition of Toronto’s tree population.

The resulting report, called “Every Tree Counts: A Portrait of Toronto’s Urban Forest” (updated in 2013), said Toronto is home to some 10.2 million trees. It also said the city needs to “increase and maintain a sustainable urban forest.”

Forestry expert Steve Smith sees evidence of the problem in the Toronto-Danforth ward.

“We’re in a part of this city that doesn’t have many trees,” he said. “We need to keep as many of them as we can.”

Historically, Ward 29 was farmland, meaning that the canopy coverage is lower than in other areas of the city. However, Smith doesn’t consider this a constraint.

“We actually have opportunities that other parts of the city don’t,” he said. “We have this beautiful deep … soil in this part of the city that is nicely suited to species that don’t do well everywhere else.”

Resident Leigh Davidson wants her neighbours in the East York community to take up the challenge. She along with other local residents started MoreTrees29, a group that encourages homeowners to take advantage of the city planting program, as well as providing tips to protect existing trees.

“You go out and knock on doors and talk to people, and explain to them that the city provides free trees to homeowners for their front yard,” Davidson said.

After finding interested homeowners, MoreTrees29 provides a list of possible tree types residents can plant and then shows residents what kinds of trees would thrive in the area. The organization helps homeowners order the trees and keeps track of the saplings’ progress.

“We can email them, if say there is a drought and remind them to water their tree twice a week,” Davidson said. “I’m answering lots of e-mails from residents about stuff like tree protection, ice-storm recovery (and) preventive pruning,”

MoreTrees29 currently has 18 volunteers who have spent the past year canvassing East York, connecting with homeowners and explaining the city’s tree planting program.

“It’s a concept of social marketing, neighbours talking to neighbours,” Davidson said. “We don’t work for the city. We don’t work for any organization. We’re just residents.”