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Vancouver's urban forest grows one tree at a time

A non-profit organization wants Vancouverites to start planting trees in their own front and back yards, and is holding a tree sale to help out, with fig trees at $15 and other fruit trees at $10 each.

A non-profit organization wants Vancouverites to start planting trees in their own front and back yards, and is holding a tree sale to help out, with fig trees at $15 and other fruit trees at $10 each.

There are also eight types of ornamental trees available for those seeking a prettier view without the fruit cleanup. The sale will be held at various community centres from April 11 to 22.

TreeKeepers is a program focused on encouraging city dwellers to plant trees on private property and add to Vancouver’s tree canopy.

David Tracey, executive director of TreeKeepers, says having an abundant tree canopy keeps the city healthy. “The city is an urban forest. We don’t think of it that way. We think of it in terms of the neighbourhoods, or the transportation and infrastructure or buildings, but in reality it is an urban forest. It just happens to have people and buildings and roads and things in it.”

According to Tracey, the health of the city is tied  to how healthy the urban forest is and one way to measure that is the canopy cover, how much of the land, looking from the sky down, is covered by trees.

“We’re actually losing canopy cover in Vancouver,” said Tracey.

The 2014 Urban Forests in Canadian Cities report states: “While the overall canopy cover is estimated at 43 per cent, there is a large variation across the region: in the city of Vancouver, canopy cover is only 18 per cent — the lowest of the major cities we have examined. In contrast, Surrey, a suburb, has a canopy cover of 32 per cent.”

Tracey said trees provide cleaner air and intercept rainwater so fewer stormwater infrastructures are necessary. He also said trees give us aesthetic pleasure by softening the harsh lines of infrastructure and maintain a thriving biodiversity by providing habitats for birds and insects.

Vancouver largely has street trees, trees on private property and in parks as opposed to its original rainforest state. “It’s kind of an artificial forest, in a sense, that we’ve created,” said Tracey.

TreeKeepers sold more than 4,500 trees last year. The target was 4,000 trees and the target remains the same this year.

TreeKeepers’ youth program manager Matthew Kemshaw is in charge of the School of the Year campaign, and last year, Vancouver Talmud Torah school, a Jewish community day school, won by 31 trees.

The contest is akin to the Terry Fox Run pledges. Students take home forms and ask family members or neighbours to sign up for a tree. The school with the most trees sold wins a trophy and $500 towards the school.

Kemshaw, who also works as a tree consultant and mentor with schools said planting a tree isn’t as daunting as some might think. “All you need are the basics: healthy soil and [that they’re] watered regularly.”

All trees must be ordered online ahead of time, then picked up at the community centres on the specific dates listed below:

  • April 11: Trout Lake Community Centre, 3360 Victoria Dr., 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
  • April 12: Kitsilano Community Centre, 2690 Larch St., 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and Killarney Community Centre, 6260 Killarney St., 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • April 18: Slocan Park, 2750 East 29th Ave., 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and Sunset Rink, 390 East 51st Ave., 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • April 19: Strathcona Community Centre, 601 Keefer St., 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Dunbar Community Centre, 747 Dunbar St., 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
  • April 22: Mount Pleasant Community Centre, |1 Kingsway, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For more information, visit treekeepers.ca.

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