Trees make the Town of White City a beautiful place to live, grow and feel a sense of community. The town, which was once an open pasture field up until the 1950s, now has a vast urban forest that spans public and private lands.
What Is The Urban Forest?
An urban forest includes all of the publicly and privately owned trees and supporting vegetation in an urban area. This includes individual trees and groups of trees which are located in natural areas, parks, yards, along streets and in commercial areas. Elements such as plants, water, soil, organisms and wildlife are also part of the urban forest. Each of these elements, in addition to people and the built environment, have an influence on the health of the urban forest.
What Are The Benefits Of The Urban Forest?
Urban forests are becoming increasingly more valuable in the current global landscape as they provide multiple environmental benefits that help mitigate the effects of climate change. Trees offer shade relief and aesthetic value, encourage physical activity, and improve the enjoyment of time spent outdoors. Trees also offer multiple environmental benefits including stormwater runoff mitigation, water retention/filtration and air purification. These benefits are compounded in a prairie climate by providing cooling shade in the summer and warming wind protection in the winter. With extreme temperature swings between seasons, it is particularly beneficial to mitigate harsh weather conditions with the use of trees.
Given these numerous benefits, White City’s urban forest is a valuable asset that requires sustained planning, planting, protection, maintenance and long-term care. The town recognizes the urban forest as a living utility, similar to roads, water systems and other necessities of an urban environment. Like other municipal utilities, the urban forest should have proper development and management plans to ensure the longevity of this important utility.
Given the need for a proper management plan, along with the presence of an aging tree population, the town contracted Davey Resource Group to develop an Urban Forest Management Strategy, the first of its kind for the town.
The Urban Forest Management Strategy (UFMS) provides a detailed and comprehensive plan for managing the urban forest in a way that meets industry standards while using a targeted, cost-effective approach. The 10-year strategy outlines the framework for changes to planning, regulation, education and enforcement protocols associated with urban forest management. The UFMS seeks to address these issues with remaining flexible in nature to allow for updates in response to environmental, political, and social changes.
The main component of the UFMS is the tree inventory, which is a comprehensive list of all publicly owned trees in White City. The complete inventory provides a database of information (tree location, diameter, health condition, etc.) of each individual tree in the community. It functions as a tool to assess the health of the forest and map out the condition of existing trees, as well as to track changes over time following inventory updates.
Davey Resource Group completed the tree inventory in August 2021. Some of their key findings were as follows:
- White City is home to over 3,700 publicly owned trees – 3,308 trees were inventoried with an estimated 400 plus additional tree groupings or bunches of trees.
- 2151 trees are located in parks, and the remaining 1157 trees are along streets within the town-owned right of way.
- A total of 53 unique species across 26 genera (closely related groups of species) were recorded.
- The most common trees are spruce and poplar, which combined make up over half (52%) of all inventoried species.
- 75% of the trees in White City are in good to excellent condition.
- The largest recorded tree, a poplar along Lipsett Street, measures 85cm in diameter.
- 490 trees (15% of the overall total) were recommended for either removal or pruning – 105 trees recommended for removal.
The data collected through the inventory of over 3,300 trees in the community allows us to develop an urban forest profile for White City where we can easily track and map out the vast number of trees, not only to forecast patterns of decline but to schedule pruning, watering and removal operations. It also allows us to analyze the urban forest data to calculate the overall benefits and create plans for future management.
White City's Urban Forest Benefits
Analyzing the inventory metrics allowed Davey arborists to use the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers’ Guide for Plain Appraisal to appraise and place a valuation on the urban forest in White City. The existing public trees are appraised at an estimated $3,285,347. This is the assessed value of the standing trees and contains the full replacement cost if the trees were removed. Trees are an appreciating investment, meaning over time and with continued maintenance, the appraised value of the urban forest will continue to increase.
Beyond the appraised value are also the ecosystem benefits trees provide through their lifetime, including the ongoing return each tree gives in terms of pollutant extraction from the air, storm water mitigation and carbon sequestration. In total, the town is provided with over $410,000 in ecological benefits annually, which includes the ongoing return each tree gives in terms of pollutant extraction from the air, storm water mitigation and carbon sequestration.
Urban Forestry Goals and Next Steps
There are four overarching goals that have been set to guide the management of this valuable resource, which are:
Administration will be working on implementation of the strategy, including tree and stump removals, tree trimming and planting plans over the coming years. Updates will be provided on the progress in the community and the ongoing work we are doing to take care of our valuable urban forest.
Tree Cities of the World
Completion of the UFMS allowed the Town of White City to apply for recognition as a Tree Cities of the World by the Arbor Day Foundation and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The Tree Cities of the World program is an international effort to recognize cities and towns committed to ensuring their urban forests and trees are properly maintained, sustainably managed and duly celebrated.
On April 6, 2022, the town received confirmation we have received Tree Cities of the World recognition for the first time! White City is one of 138 communities from 21 countries that were recognized, one of 38 municipalities that are joining the network for the first time and one of only two communities in Saskatchewan (Regina being the other) with the same recognition.
White City is now officially connected to an important global network leading the way in urban and community forestry!
To read more about Tree Cities of the World, you can visit their website here: https://treecitiesoftheworld.org/