Residents concerned about the state of the Winnipeg's urban forest can step up and make a difference.
In addition to launching a pilot program this year, working with two community groups to plant a large number of trees in their neighbourhoods, the City of Winnipeg allows individuals who can’t or don't want to wait for city hall’s two-year replacement planting schedule to arrange to have trees purchased and installed on city boulevards by approved arborist contractors — at their own cost.
Martha Barwinsky, the City of Winnipeg forester, said the little-known program has run for several years.
"We implemented that option for residents who didn’t want to wait," she said Wednesday, adding, however, it’s not been popular.
"Over the years, we’ve maybe had half-a-dozen to a dozen requests like that."
Last year, the city removed almost 12,000 diseased trees from city boulevards, parks and natural areas, but only planted 2,500 replacement trees.
Barwinsky said she hopes a pilot program the city is launching this summer with two community groups who will be planting a large number of boulevard trees can help make up the shortfall.
"Not just one tree in front of an individual’s property but a number of trees in their neighbourhood," Barwinsky said, adding the groups are working with their ward councillors (John Orlikow and Jason Schreyer) who are providing them with funds through ward land dedication reserve accounts.
"The residents are co-ordinating, getting quotes from the list of approved contractors, and we’re identifying the specific locations and the appropriate tree species."
In Orlikow’s River Heights ward, a small neighbourhood group has arranged to have 59 maple and hackberry trees planted on adjacent boulevards in May. Across town, the Glenelm Neighbourhood Association is doing a similar project.
Charles Feaver, a member of the River Heights-area Friends of Peanut (Enderton) Park, said area residents want to show other neighbourhood groups they can make a difference.
Feaver said his neighbours were motivated by a similar project several years ago, when they secured a grant from Manitoba Hydro and planted more than 50 trees in Peanut Park.
Feaver said they hope to have the area — bound by Academy Road, Stafford Street, Grosvenor Avenue, Wellington Crescent — designated as a heritage neighbourhood one day, adding they all recognize one of the important features is the tree canopy.
"That really makes our neighbourhood, and if we lose (those trees), it will be devastating," he said. "We want to get as many trees in as possible."
Feaver said Orlikow provided the residents with a $12,000 grant.
While a certified arborist contractor is doing all the work, Feaver said the residents committed to water the trees for the first two years, which is key to ensuring they survive and grow.
"It’s a one-time thing for us. This will fill in where the holes in the tree canopy developed over the years," he said. "We hope (Orlikow) can do the same thing elsewhere because so much of (River Heights-Fort Garry) is filled with beautiful trees."
Barwinsky said there were only five boulevard trees planted by individual residents last year, but she said the pilot neighbourhood program will help address public concern for the city’s tree canopy.
"There’s lots of other benefits to having a whole community involved rather than just individual residents isolated on their own. It is more effective and efficient to manage with a group rather than an individual citizen," she said.
"If the entire community is engaged, that leads to greater care of our trees and greater awareness and appreciation of the trees in their neighbourhood."
Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.
Residents can hire an approved arborist contractor to plant a tree on a city boulevard, the City of Winnipeg says.
— Residents are responsible for all costs and any subsequent damage — to turf, other trees or city property — as a result of the planting.
— Proper forms and authorization must first be obtained, signed by both the resident and the contractor.
— Costs are to be negotiated between the resident and the contractor.
— Urban forestry branch must approve the species of the tree to be planted, the size and location.
— A hand-drawn diagram showing the location must be submitted with a formal application (http://wfp.to/pnG).
— Plantings can only proceed after the resident has received notification of approval from the urban forestry branch.
— Approvals from the urban forestry division can be provided within seven to 10 working days.
Residents can buy trees for a discounted price to plant in their own yards through Winnipeg ReLeaf (http://treeswinnipeg.org/releaf-tree-planting-program), a joint initiative between city hall and Trees Winnipeg.
— This requires residents to enrol in a once-a-year workshop.
— Cost is $55, which includes the tree of your choice (from the available nursery stock), and required supplies.
Updated on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 8:16 PM CDT: Updates headline