London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Many residents are proud of London’s nickname of The Forest City, but is it something that can realistically be supported over the next 50 years?
Like the Official Plan or the Transportation Master Plan, London’s Urban Forest Strategy is an effort to create a blueprint for how the city deals with its urban tree cover.
Since June, the city has been trying to engage residents to share their thoughts and feelings around trees through the use of an online survey and email address. The survey is available at www.london.ca/focusonourforest or people can email their ideas, observations and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Rowland, an urban forestry planner with the City of London, said the work on the strategy has been underway since April with the gathering of community input taking place since June. That so-called Phase One of the information gathering process wraps up on Friday.
“We are hoping for as much feedback from the public as possible as to what their vision is for London in the future,” Rowland said. “Fundamentally, it comes down to the question of do we want to remain the Forest City. And if we do want to be the Forest City are we doing a good enough job with the trees we have now.”
Rowland said London’s trees are facing a number of threats, in particular, the much-debated emerald ash borer, which she said is affecting approximately 10 per cent of the city’s tree population. However, Rowland adds there are other threats the city is looking out for, new fungal diseases spreading up from the United States as a result of climate change and the ongoing threat of insects being imported from other countries, such as the Asian long horn beetle, which was found in Toronto a few years ago.
“All these things together mean if we are going to maintain that nickname of the Forest City, we are going to have to work very hard at developing practices, policies and procedures that will help us maintain a healthy tree population,” Rowland said. “There are a number of different things we need to be thinking about over the next 50 years to help us achieve the targets of what people want to see in the Forest City.”
Rowland said as of Monday morning (Aug. 27) approximately 1,500 surveys had been completed. The hope, she added, is that 2,500 would be submitted by the Friday deadline.
To achieve that number, Rowland said the city has created a little incentive for people to take part in the survey. Those who complete the survey, and submit their contact information, are eligible for a draw for one of two $100 vouchers from Novak’s
“We have promoted the survey on Facebook, Twitter and our own website so we are hoping to get across the board support from all age groups. We still aren’t hearing enough from the teens, we have had some, and they have been very creative with their suggestive,” Rowland said. “Whatever we decide we are going to do today are things our teens and younger children will benefit from, not so much ourselves, because you are looking at 30 to 50 years before the trees are mature.”
Unlike the transportation plan, which could in theory support the purchasing of new buses, Rowland said it is more problematic to increase the city’s urban tree canopy in a short period of time. To that end, Rowland said the urban forestry blueprint will provide tools for both long-term goals, as well as, short-term strategies.
A short-term strategy, Rowland said, could be something like a bylaw that would protect the city’s mature trees. A more long-term approach, Rowland said, could be to have increased planting in areas such as industrial zones where traditionally less effort has been made to protect — or increase — the city’s tree canopy.
The responses from the survey will be reviewed, trends will be identified, and a draft strategy will come forward to the city’s Trees and Forests Advisory Committee in late September or early October. Rowland said there will then be a public open house where the draft strategy will be presented to the public for further discussion and refinement.
The draft strategy, Rowland said, is to be presented to council in early 2013.
“Then it will come down to the policy makers to decide. The strategy will come up with what needs to be done and then it comes down to politics, economics, other of challenges we can’t predict at this point,” Rowland said. “If we are going to have a prosperous city in the future, we have to make it a place where people want to live. I think trees play a very important role in that.”
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