If a tree falls in Glenelm, not only has someone heard it, but another tree will be planted to replace it.
Over the past few years, Glenelm residents have watched as hundreds of mature elm trees were removed from local boulevards by City of Winnipeg crews in the ongoing battle against Dutch elm disease. But rather than watch helplessly as their beloved canopy disappears, members of the Glenelm Neighbourhood Association decided to do something about it.
"This is going to sound corny, but trees feel like they’re our neighbours," said Lisa Forbes, a member of GeNA’s tree committee. "A couple of us just opened our doors and saw that our big trees were gone."
Last year, the group approached Martha Barwinsky, the City’s head forester, for advice. Upon learning that the Urban Forestry Department is only budgeted to replant one of every two public trees that are removed, GeNA’s tree committee began the process of securing funds to match the City’s reforestation efforts in their neighbourhood.
"We know there are so many strains on the public budget," Forbes said. "But this is a decimation of our tree population. We have three things happening at once, one disease and two bugs killing our trees. It’s a war."
The group connected with Trees Winnipeg, and put together a proposal. On April 16, Coun. Jason Schreyer (Elmwood-East Kildonan) approved special funding of $53,000 from his ward’s land dedication reserve for the project at a meeting of the East Kildonan-Transcona Community Committee. The application, which made an exemption for the funds to be used on public boulevards rather than in a park or other recreational space, then received unanimous support from city council.
On Sept. 25, an Ohio buckeye was planted in front of Glenelm School (96 Carmen Ave.), the first of 59 trees that will help replace those lost recently to DED in the area.
"With this, we feel a little less hopeless," said Emma Durand-Wood, a member of GeNA’s tree committee at the event. "Planting a tree is a gift to both the present, and the future."
After placing a ceremonial shovelful of soil on the tree, Schreyer, a Glenelm resident, noted that the elm in front of his house was cut down this summer and pledged to support the reforestation efforts in the area "as long as possible."
Meanwhile, one block to the south on Cobourg Avenue, City crews were removing a massive mature elm, one of over 30 that have been removed in Glenelm over the course of the summer.
Along with Dutch elm disease, local ash trees have also been falling prey to a pair of invasive species. Combined, the cottony ash psyllid, or jumping tree lice, and the emerald ash borer are expected to decimate the city’s entire ash population over the next 20 years.
"We have to get used to having a different landscape, because planting a monoculture is kind of what got us into this problem in the first place," Forbes said. "We won’t have a canopy like this, but we will have a diversity of trees. We have to say goodbye to a lot of these trees, though I hope we can save some of them."
To combat the loss of elm and ash trees and increase biodiversity, the trees that will be planted in Glenelm this year include silver and amur maple, golden linden, and bur oak. Beatrice Street, which has Hydro lines running along the boulevard, will welcome a number of ornamental starlight crab apple and Japanese lilac trees.
Earlier in September, Mayor Brian Bowman challenged Winnipeggers to plant a million trees across the city over the next 20 years. Mellanie Lawrenz, another member of GeNA’s tree committee, welcomed the challenge, with cautious optimism.
"I’d caution the mayor not to put the onus on public assets on community groups," Lawrenz said.
"It’s a tough call when our leaders have austerity in mind, but we hope to really speak about the trees in terms of the assets they are," Forbes said.
While in the early stages of the project, GeNA connected with other neighbourhood associations, such as the Friends of Peanut Park in Crescentwood, who are also dealing with deforestation in mature residential neighbourhoods. The groups are working towards holding a city wide open house on the subject on Oct. 28.
"We’re hoping to have more money allocated to the City budget this year, so we’re going to try to meet to talk about how we can move things politically for the City and province to put more money towards trees," Forbes explained.
Community journalist — The Herald
Sheldon Birnie is the community journalist for The Herald Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org Call him at 204-697-7112