Citizen gets results: City to Improve Health of Downtown Hamilton and Dundas Trees

On June 3rd, Nicholas Schwetz delegated and presented his findings on the health of Hamilton’s downtown trees. Schwetz, an ecologist, was concerned about the poor conditions he saw of the trees downtown on his daily walk, and decided to do something about it.

The result: Staff are making changes to how trees are built into downtown sidewalks and proving that one citizen can make a difference.

City Hall can work sometimes, even quickly, and an individual citizen can make a difference by standing in front of City Council with good research, good ideas, and offer the City an easy plan for improvements.

The latest proof: Hamilton and Dundas’ downtown trees are going to be more healthy as a result of a citizen delegation in June to the Public Works Committee.

Nicholas Schwetz spoke in front of Council on June 3, 2013 telling Councillors the health of Hamilton’s downtown trees was in danger due to damage from tree grates, a lack of growing space for the trees, and the use of non-permeable materials that prevent the trees from getting enough water to be healthy.

[module type=”aside” width=”quarter” align=”right”]Livestream replay: Schwetz’s delegation from June 3, 2013

Schwetz also expressed concerns about the use of non-native species.

After his presentation, Ward 6 Councillor Tom Jackson stated he was impressed by Schwetz’s knowledge and research on the subject.

He moved a motion directing the City’s director of forestry, Mike McNamara, to look into Schwetz’s concerns and report back.

The Results

McNamara’s report back confirms many of the findings. His staff found downtown trees are poor/dead to good health.

The city will now do an annual inspection of all downtown sidewalk trees, they are going to build better growing spaces for sidewalk trees in the future, and the metal grates currently used to surround the trees will be replaced with wood chips or permeable rubber matting where wood chips are not feasible due to foot traffic.

Staff say that “often native trees do not perform well in hard surfaces due to the harsh growing conditions, road salt and the absence of native soil.”

They will continue using non-native trees as needed.

Nicholas Schwetz and the City’s Foresty Division both deserve credit for working on and fixing this problem. Bravo.

Citizen Engagement

City Manager Chris Murray says the this is part of the culture change happening.

“It used to be we thought of ourselves as the experts,” Murray said of City Hall’s former culture. “Now we’re collaborating with residents.”

Murray cited the recent success of the YesWeCannon campaign as another example of residents come forth to Council with a great idea and staff working to quickly implement it.