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LETTER: Resident commends council's plan for Guelph's trees

'Raise a glass to our trees,' Tom Ewart says
Fall trees at the University of Guelph. Anam Khan/GuelphToday file photo

GuelphToday received the following letter from Tom Ewart regarding the Urban Forest Management Plan:

Earlier this year, Guelph was named one of the first ‘Tree Cities of the World’ by the United Nations and a large American foundation in recognition of its Urban Forest Management Plan.

Later this month at its budget meetings, city council will likely begin funding the second phase of this tree plan, which it unanimously approved in September. In the lead up to this, it is worth taking a moment to acknowledge and celebrate everything our trees do for our economy, climate, health and safety.

Start with the dollars. Guelph’s trees, which the city has valued at over $800 million, provide an estimated $9.7 million in benefits each year.

Our trees prevent nearly 400,000 cubic metres of costly runoff that our wastewater treatment facilities would have to process. They extend the lifetime of pavement (up to a decade in one study).

And our annual dividend from trees includes $1.9 million in home energy savings. Yes, these free air conditioners have been found to cool the outside air up to 5.7 C during the day and 3 C at night.

Mindful of property values? Home buyers will pay more for houses in neighbourhoods with good tree canopy cover--between five and 20 per cent more, depending on the study.

When it comes to our climate, trees are an important tool to fight global heating. Guelph’s trees remove 6,455 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Many of us have become more conscious of our health and safety in 2020, including our mental health. Again, our trees are there to support us.

They make streets safer, and may even reduce crime. They clean the air we breathe, removing up to 24 per cent of dust. Guelph’s own trees remove 156 tonnes of pollutants each year. They reduce the prevalence of asthma in children. They enhance our attention, including among those with attention deficit disorder. They have restorative influences on our health.

Evidently, a quarter of pharmaceutical products are plant-based. Indeed, there is so much insight, innovation and imagination we can derive from trees. Without even looking outside, I feel deeply inspired by one of my toddler’s books that somehow captures the beauty of our barky beasts.

So, with both our city budget and the winter holiday seasons fast-approaching, let us raise a glass to our trees, to our city staff for developing a plan to grow them, and to our city council for appropriately funding that plan this year and into the future.

Tom Ewart