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District group outlines tree project

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The Rainy River District Stewardship (RRDS) has been taking inventory of trees on municipal land for the past four years and now the public can do its part to add the trees on their private property to the mapping project.

RRDS vice-chair Tony Elders outlined the group's “Cultural Heritage Tree Project” during a presentation to town council Monday night.

“We started out thinking there's many mature, native trees on municipal land," he remarked. "Well, it's part of our mandate to raise awareness and educate so we thought this project would fit,” he told council.

“So we thought, 'What would happen if we inventoried and mapped trees along the active transportation plan routes on municipal land?'” he added.

“Maybe we would label a few trees with small signs and see if we could find some partners.”

And so the RRDS, along with partners such as the Town of Fort Frances, Fort Frances High School, Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Northwestern Health Unit, Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre, and Rainy Lake Conservancy, got underway with the ambitious project.

The legwork was done by FFHS students, mostly in Grade 11 and 12, and the MNRF's Youth Stewardship Rangers, who set out to identify land ownership and trees on those lands which the town owns.

Then they mapped those trees' locations using GPS while also measuring their diameter, height, percentage of crown and crown size, condition, and proximity to buildings.

The trees were mapped on streets along the active transportation plan the town devised years ago. These include most streets east of Mowat Avenue, as well as King's Highway and Colonization Road West.

The RRDS then produced a tree map outlining a four-km route around town and marking the locations of 12 species of Canadian trees, ranging from Manitoba maple to bur oak to tamarack.

The map also includes GPS co-ordinates which people can use for geo-caching or a similar activity, Elder explained.

It is available for downloading online.

Five hundred copies of the maps also were donated to the local public library, museum, and tourist information centre.

A dozen different trees were marked with a small sign indicating its common name (such as white elm), its scientific name (“Ulmus americana" for white elm), its the Ojibwe name ("aniib” for white elm), and a quick response (QR) code, which folks can scan with their smartphone and it will take them directly to the RRDS' interactive map that can be found at www.rrds.ca/trees

Jeremy Hughes, the public library's information technology co-ordinator, developed this web application through the iTree program.

The multi-layered map shows where all 527 of the mapped trees are located. The scale of the trees' data points on the map are reflective of their crown coverage (i.e., bigger dots on the map mean the tree has a bigger crown), Hughes explained.

“Using this interactive map, you can click on a tree and see all of the details of each tree that has been inventoried,” he noted.

“We've limited our inventory to trees on municipal land," Hughes added. "We're hoping to expand that to trees on private property through community participation.”

Hughes said individuals can find trees on the map, comment on them, and share them on social media.

New tress also can be added to the map.

Hughes noted there's a “+” on the map that takes you to a form which you can fill out, providing information such as the species, date, and dimensions of trees on your private property.

The ecological, and consequently financial, benefits of the trees also have been calculated using a model provided by the U.S. Forest Service, Elders said.

Using that model, the 527 trees mapped intercept 347,500 litres of storm water each year and reduce 4,988 kg of carbon dioxide. They also help conserve energy to the tune of 6,648 kW/h and 120,000 BTU each year.

The financial impact of the total annual benefits is estimated at $3,449.

The RRDS also made eight recommendations to town council regarding trees, including:

  • develop a tree strategy for municipal lands (this could include a target for tree cover, areas where trees could be planted and where not to, and a multi-year planting plan to achieve the planting target;
  • consider what species are to be planted to maximize tree benefits in terms of energy, storm water run-off, pollution abatement, and carbon sequestration;
  • consider a periodic planting regime that will allow trees to develop at different heights and ages to be both economical and resistant to periodic insect and disease infestation;
  • consider a municipally-sponsored program to have residents “adopt,” sponsor, and care for trees planted on boulevards and municipal lands as they have in the past;
  • plant trees native to the region over foreign imports;
  • encourage participation in tree programs by community groups;
  • protect town trees from bark damage caused by workers using weed eaters and lawnmowers, especially when the trees are young; and
  • investigate the iTree program for other municipal uses.

Mayor June Caul said the group's work complements the new tree canopy policy being developed by the town's Operations and Facilities executive committee.

“I am sure your expertise can be used by many, many people around town in planting trees that will be feasible to plant in our area,” she remarked.

Coun. Andrew Hallikas said the RRDS's work is “very topical right now with climate change” while Coun. Wendy Brunetta pointed out that while there are health and financial benefits to trees, they also are an important component of beautification in our community.

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