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Calgary’s tree giveaway program needs to be more equitable: councillor – Calgary

The City of Calgary is donating 2,000 trees for homes this year, but city councilors say the program needs to be more equitable to the city’s northeast.

The city’s Branching Out program aims to expand the reach of Calgary’s tree canopy by distributing trees to residents in need.

According to the city, Calgary’s average canopy coverage is currently 8.25%, and officials are working to increase it to 16%.

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Trees are provided free of charge by the city and are evenly distributed across all four city quadrants.

But ward 5 count. Raj Dhaliwal says the northeast quadrant is worth more because it has the least tree cover.

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Ward 5 has the lowest tree cover compared to all other wards, he said. Saddle Ridge has the lowest canopy coverage, around 1.27%.

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“We hope the city will target District 5 and reach the benchmark of 8.4%,” Dhaliwal told Global News.

“People say that when you go to other parts of the city, there are so many trees, especially on the west side of the city.

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Dhaliwal added that the lack of trees in the ward represents a huge socio-economic difference compared to other wards in the city.

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Most of the trees are concentrated in high-income household areas, and the scarcity of trees puts District 5 residents at a disadvantage.

Dhaliwal said a systemic change is needed in how the City of Calgary designs and redevelops its communities. City authorities should revisit urban forestry management programs and their park programs to target areas lacking green space.

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The city could also partner with community organizations and consider federal funding to plant trees in the city’s northeast.

“In District 5, there is a huge perception that[urban planners]are consciously ignoring this part of the city. They see it as a form of environmental discrimination,” Dhaliwal said. rice field.

“Trees don’t go anywhere. You have to have a plan, but our plans so far have lacked that vision, and the spaces we’ve created haven’t allowed trees to thrive here.”

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Mike Mahon, head of urban forestry, said the Branching Out program will ultimately allocate trees to communities that need them most, but should be data-driven and demand-based. said it would be

Mahon added Ward 5 is in a grassy area, with poorer soil quality and lower water levels than the west, closer to rivers and parks.

“There are plans to increase the biodiversity of the grasslands. We are looking at naturalized areas for parks and open spaces,” Mahon said.

“But we’re still aiming to grow the tree canopy. That doesn’t mean we’re not committed to planting trees in the Northeast, we just need higher levels of funding and resources.”

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Emily Amon, green infrastructure manager at Green Communities Canada, says tree canopies are not only beneficial for the environment, but also have mental health benefits.

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Trees help cool cities, reduce flooding, and also provide access to green spaces. Communities with access to trees have better social cohesion and mental health, Amon said.

However, economically poor and socially marginalized areas traditionally have less tree cover and are at higher climate risk.

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This is especially true for urban Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) majority communities.

“There is a term called environmental racism that is associated with many economic factors,” Amon told Global News.

“There is a view that the community, especially the BIPOC community, may not have the same level of empowerment or involvement in the urban planning process.”

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Amon said the city is trying to address inequalities by partnering with public housing companies to prioritize planting trees on subsidized housing lots.

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The city can also prioritize expanding and improving green spaces in established parks in these areas, she said.

“Cities can also take abandoned land, remove asphalt in the area and replant trees,” Amon said.

“Where there are derelict buildings and hard surfaces that are not in use…they can be turned into new parks and new green spaces.”

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Residents of small plots that may not be able to accommodate trees can consider planting a community garden or micro prairie.

Small prairie plants such as grasses, cornflowers and milkweed attract native insects (bees, butterflies) and birds to seek out natural food sources such as nectar, pollen, seeds and fruit.

Amon says gardens provide a meaningful connection to nature while also helping to increase food security.

“You can do something called lasagna gardening, where you put sheets and cardboard on top of the turf, add soil, and plant vegetables and crops for the next year,” says Amon.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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