In 2020, Green Venture launched the Canopy for Community program to support youth climate action and education to help grow Hamilton’s urban forest. The program provides class presentations and stewardship projects to local highschool classes and native tree growing kits for schools and residents. Working with the City of Hamilton Forestry Department, youth and volunteers are also helping us plant trees in urban areas that need more canopy coverage for shade, to improve air quality and to support community well-being.
Learn more about Canopy for Community!
Now we are turning our attention to addressing the tree inequality issue in our community. In partnership with CityHousing Hamilton, Trees for Hamilton, the City of Hamilton Forestry Department, and University of Toronto Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design we will inventory and map tree canopy with local residents at several CityHousing properties and determine the best areas for tree planting and tree stewardship on those properties.
Learn more about urban forestry, the issue of tree equity and how you can get involved below:
Hamilton’s urban forest is under threat due to development, climate change, poor stewardship and a lack of strategic planning and planting. At Green Venture we want to help reverse that trend by growing the urban forest canopy across the city. Trees are often seen as ‘nice to haves’ or valued for their aesthetic appeal but have you ever considered the long list of benefits they provide for our community and environment? The first thing you probably thought of was air quality and oxygen, but they also provide shade and cooling, protect biodiversity, provide mental and physical health benefits, manage stormwater, create jobs, and so much more. For example, if it’s a hot day a shade tree can cool your home or apartment, saving you money on your electricity bill by not having to crank the A/C. In homes or apartments that don’t have A/C or can’t control indoor temperatures, shade received from trees provides some respite outdoors. Generally when we have access to greenspace and shade trees we are more inclined to be outside chatting with neighbours building up community connections. The benefits are endless! The City of Hamilton Draft Urban Forest Strategy lists ten ways trees help us – check it out!
Trees are really important to the natural environment but also vital to our physical and mental health, influencing how we work, live and play in our communities. Unfortunately, canopy cover is rarely distributed equally in urban areas. American Forests has found that city tree canopy cover maps often resemble maps of race and income. Trees are abundant in higher income neighbourhoods and sparse in lower income neighbourhoods. This trend still holds regardless of population density (McDonald et al, 2021).
This is tree inequality – trees and their local benefits are necessary for everyone, but not everyone has the same access to these benefits. We know these disparities and their impacts are going to be further exacerbated by climate change, and therefore the urban forest plans and approaches we implement now must strive for a city in which all residents have adequate nature nearby, fresh air to breath, and ample tree cover to buffer against heat-related illnesses.
We aren’t immune to tree inequality in Hamilton. Our urban core and newer suburban developments likely have lower tree canopy cover, while older neighbourhoods with larger lot sizes and older trees, or those adjacent to the escarpment or our urban river valleys, likely have higher tree canopy cover. At this time we just don’t have enough tree canopy mapping or inventory data to know how tree canopy stacks up across Hamilton in rural versus urban areas, in the parts of the city above the escarpment verses below, or across different neighbourhoods. Any city-wide canopy cover comparison will also depend on how you divide up the city. Our most recent Hamilton Urban Forest Technical Report assessed tree canopy cover across different city wards (but only the parts of the wards within the urban boundary), and showed that our urban canopy cover varies greatly across these city wards.
However, we know this ward canopy cover analysis is skewed by our geography – for example, in Ward 5, where EcoHouse is located, we have 27.4% canopy cover (based on data from 2017) but Ward 5 also contains big contiguous greenspaces, including along the Red Hill Expressway, Lower Battlefield and Lower Stoney Creek, and along the Beach Strip.
Ultimately, this ward canopy cover comparison doesn’t help us craft equity-focused plans and policies for our urban forest – we need a finer tooth comb to be able to identify priority areas for tree planting and stewardship to ensure all residents have access to urban trees and their benefits.
As a starting point, the Hamilton Tree Equity project is undertaking tree inventories and shade audits at a subset of CityHousing Hamilton properties, to better understand the extent, location, and condition of trees at these properties and to understand residents’ access to greenspace and shade.
Green Venture will be inventorying trees across CityHousing Hamilton properties this summer. Come say ‘hi’ if you see us out and about, and ask about the project! You might learn something new about your favourite tree! Keep an eye out for social media as we will share updates on upcoming events, blogs, and other ways to get involved. If you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter or you can reach the Green Venture tree team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out how our inventory is doing with our Tree Inventory Map here. If we are in your neighbourhood, feel free to come by during the inventory to say hi!