On the shady side of the street
Castlegar plants the groundwork for urban tree renewal
Storm sewers over shade, bridges higher than filtered air and water?
Municipalities make tough decisions when it comes to paying for infrastructure, and green assets such as urban street trees often are lower on the priority list than is aging grey infrastructure such as roads and bridges.
But street trees enhance urban life and provide a multitude of benefits in all seasons. Although we notice the esthetic and shade qualities of trees the most, the health, safety, environmental and economic benefits are astounding (see sidebar below).
In January, Castlegar unveiled its Street Tree Master Plan (STMP), which was produced by McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd., the oldest combined engineering, surveying and mapping company in western Canada. The company has expanded to include other environmental services such as landscape architecture, as shown by the Castlegar STMP.
An inventory of existing street trees showed that almost one-third of the downtown’s street trees are in fair to very poor condition and most of the city’s trees are small in diameter. Only three species comprise over 90 per cent of city’s street trees, with red maple leading (57 per cent), followed by lindens (20 per cent) and honey locusts (14 per cent). The City’s goal is to achieve a greater diversity of species that includes larger, long-lived canopy trees.
City councillor Kevin Chernoff said, “It’s an exciting process to create a plan that has the potential to greatly enhance the look and feel of a community.”
The City’s vision for its urban forest varies by district. Here are three examples:
- The Columbia Avenue downtown core will feature columnar and vase-shaped trees that do not interfere with pedestrians, street lights, utilities and business signs;
- The Columbia Avenue Residential District will feature a landscaped boulevard paralleling a planned multi-use pathway; and
- The gateways from Highways 3 and 3A will feature native trees such as trembling aspen, Western larch and Douglas-fir to represent a transition from the natural landscape surrounding the city.
“Over time, a distinctive character for each District can be reinforced using a dedicated palette of street trees with similar features such as shape, size, and fall colour,” states the STMP.
The next step will be for City Council to endorse the STMP and amend its Official Community Plan and relevant bylaws to reference the STMP.
“A well-planned street tree program that improves the gateways to Castlegar and the streetscape within the city will help create an even more desirable community for residents to live and work and for tourists to visit,” said Chernoff. “The business community benefits from these things (too).”
Nuts and boles: Benefits of urban trees
- Enhance livability in all seasons
- Improve emotional and physical health
- Reduce air pollution
- Improve water quality
- Reduce stormwater runoff
- Provide wildlife habitat
- Increase property values
- Reduce energy costs
- Reduce noise levels and visual clutter
- Decrease traffic speeds
- Increase pedestrian safety
- Increase tourist visits
- Increase business revenue