We all know the benefits of trees — energy savings, health benefits, air filtration, and the list goes on! But have you ever wondered how newly planted trees survive their first few years in the city?
According to Toronto Parks, Forestry, and Recreation, Toronto has more than 1,500 parks. And, within Toronto’s parkland system—which also includes 600km of trails—there are an estimated 3.5 million trees.
The City of Toronto is committed to increasing the urban tree canopy coverage to 40% from its current 26-28%. Every year, the City of Toronto plants 105,000 young trees (these aren’t all in parks, but that’s still a lot of trees!).
With limited city resources, there’s a risk that these trees won’t get what they need in the first 3-5 years of their life as they establish their root systems. Enter Adopt-A-Tree, a program where local residents become caregivers for the young trees in a given park. Tree parents agree to adopt a tree (or multiple trees) and water, weed, and mulch from May to October for up to five years.
The first of this tree-adopter model in Toronto was the Adopt-A-Tree program in Trinity Bellwoods Park, a picturesque hotspot in Toronto’s west end that sees 1000s of visitors every summer weekend. In Trinity Bellwoods Park alone, approximately 90 young trees were planted before the start of the 2017 Adopt-A-Tree season.
This season’s Adopt-A-Tree program in Bellwoods has seen both new adopters and the return of volunteers who have been devoted to their trees for consecutive years. Families have taken on the cause, making a commitment to give back to their local park. The local daycare centre has even adopted a handful of trees, connecting children with nature and growing the positive relationship with their local green spaces.
Now in its eleventh year, the success of Trinity Bellwoods has served as an inspiration for the establishment of other Adopt-A-Tree programs across the City, with three new programs in 2017 alone!
Want to start an Adopt-A-Tree program in your local park? Toronto non-profits Park People and LEAF (Local Enhancement & Appreciation of Forests) have partnered to produce a how-to manual that will help you start and manage your own Adopt-A-Tree program.
Allison is a citizen arborist, travel fiend, amateur birder, and baseball nut who lives in Toronto with her husband and their two dogs, Buster and Fox.