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Please Respect City Trees

Dead & Damaged Boulevard Tree

Do Your Part to Maintain Lethbridge’s Green Canopy Maureen Sexsmith-West ISA Certified Arborist, PR4600A I had the pleasure to work with a client in the London Road Neighbourhood last week. She brought up a concern about the attitude about boulevard trees. London Road is one of the older communities in the City, blessed with many mature trees in residential yards, neighbourhood parks and along boulevards. A mature landscape increases real estate value, brings wildlife and protects against environmental conditions. As she strolled about the neighbourhood walking her dog, she was saddened to see many of the new/replacement trees dead within a couple of years. We speculated on the cost of new tree ($500). I pointed out that the cost of removing the original tree and stump grinding should be included (add $1000+). Now factor in 30 or more years of caring for it until it is the same size ($5,000+). With every lost tree, our urban forestry department has to sacrifice other services to stay within their budget. This comes out of our collective pockets in the form of taxes. Perhaps think of this this way … you just invested $40,000 into landscaping your own yard. I am certain that you would water and maintain it to protect your investment, wouldn’t you. City trees need the same care and attention.

Boulevard Trees have a much lower life expectancy than a residential tree. Here are my thoughts on why?

  1. The owners change frequently and attitudes about them also

  2. Maintenance cycles are less frequent due to the number of trees versus the budget and staffing levels

  3. Reduced use of insect control products

  4. Trees are used as sign posts using nails or screws

  5. They are used for electrical cord hangers (causing girdling)

  6. Weed whipping strips the bark from the trunk

  7. Vehicle damage

  8. Roots are damaged from sidewalk and road construction and installation of electrical, gas and water/sanitary services

The single LARGEST ISSUE, I believe, is the lack of irrigation given to City trees. Drought stressed trees are at higher risk of diseases and insect attacks. As I look back through the Galt Archives, I came across a picture of how our first City trees took root. They were hand planted and watered by hand by horse and cart.

Establishing trees – hauling water by horse and wagon Galt Museum Archives

With modern irrigation and water services, irrigating your trees should be simple. I know there are complaints about the changes in how our utilities are being invoiced – so people are cutting back on watering their landscapes.

Without a tree to provide you with shade, your turf will brown off more quickly, your house will be hotter in the summer (resulting in higher consumption of air conditioning/electricity), less shelter during storm events, less water absorption during rain events. By neglecting the tree on your boulevard, you put your own trees and those around you at risk. A sick tree is a magnet for destructive insects, diseases and wood decay organisms.

Lethbridge without trees – just prairie grasses.

With temperatures in the high 30’s this week, consider what it would be like to open your door and only see this. Or worse yet, have to completely restart your urban forest like the community of High River.

Little changes make a huge difference. Considering using your tub water to water plants rather than flushing it down the drain – you get double the use for the same cost.

I hope you look at your trees a little differently tomorrow.

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