LETTER: Proper tree protection bylaw ‘vitally important’ in Barrie

LETTER: Proper tree protection bylaw ‘vitally important’ in Barrie

City hosting public information meeting later today to discuss ‘made-for-Barrie’ bylaw governing private trees

BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at raymond@barrietoday.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter from Living Green Barrie’s Andee Pelan is in response to an article titled ‘City looking public input on tree removal bylaw,’ published on Feb. 11.

Imagine pausing in the shade of a large tree in your neighborhood on a hot day in August.

You notice interesting artistic patterns in the bark and smile as you appreciate the strength of the wide branches stretching outwards.

The bird songs coming from this tree are almost loud enough to drown out the traffic noises of the city. You feel calm and happy and note that this grand tree defied a lot of odds to grow this large in a city with its salty, compacted soils and urban pollution.

It’s impressive, really.

Now, how would you feel if the “owner” of that impressive tree decided to cut it down because they didn’t like raking leaves or wanted to extend their driveway? If they wanted to, they could. They wouldn’t even have to give it a second thought.

This is why a proper tree protection bylaw is vitally important. Barrie is one of the only cities of its size in Ontario that doesn’t have a bylaw in place to protect most trees. Our current bylaw only applies to trees that are part of a woodlot that is a half-acre (0.2 hectares) in size or larger.

This means that most trees in Barrie are at risk. Over 70 per cent of trees in Barrie are on private property and with all of the increased pressure to intensify and build up our city, many large older trees are in danger.

Large trees, regardless of whose property they are on, are so important to all of us. They save us money on our tax bill by acting as green infrastructure; cooling our streets and buildings and cleaning stormwater before it can pollute Lake Simcoe. They make our homes more valuable; larger trees make are hallmarks of an “established neighborhoods.”

Scientifically backed evidence has shown that large trees make us significantly mentally and physically healthier. If all that isn’t enough, trees provide one of the best tools we have to change the course of the biggest existential threat to our very survival, climate change.

But one tree can’t be that important, can it? Can’t we just plan more?

One big, mature tree is so much more valuable than several smaller trees in relation to the ecological services it provides. Almost every large tree in Barrie defied the odds to get to that size. Not only do large trees take a long time to grow, in a city with its difficult growing conditions, they might not ever become big. How many struggling six-foot-tall street trees do you pass in a day?

So how would a tree by law help? At the very least, it starts a much-needed conversation. Sometimes a little education can be the most valuable tool; especially for those who want to keep the tree, but may kill it accidentally through carelessness or inexperience.

The bylaw process can recommend tree protection plans so roots aren’t damaged inadvertently. And when there is no other option but to cut, the bylaw can lay out a plan to replace it or compensate so another can be planted nearby.

Currently, with each tree that is cut and not replaced, there is a net loss of our valuable urban forest.

How can people get involved or help? Today (Feb 24) at 4 pm, the city is hosting a virtual public information center meeting about designing a made-for-Barrie private tree bylaw. It’s extremely important for people to attend this meeting and complete the survey so we can show the city how much we value our large trees.

Trees are vital to our very survival; they literally make the air we breathe. We need them and right now, they need us!

Andee Pelan
Living Green Barrie