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May 29, 2012


Nothing says "green" and "good for the environment" like driving a diesel-powered bus — likely air conditioned — around town to look at trees for two hours in the early summer.

Honest to God, where is council's collective head? Or staff, for that matter — if it was a staff initiative.

Either way, what an incredible waste of money.

Maggie Laidlaw wants citizens to stop idling. The city wants people to drive around looking at trees. Anyone else see how backward this is?

A 'free' tour to promote the City's tree hugging agenda, financed with your tax dollars and your buses. Nice

Ever notice that nobody at city hall ever says "This was My idea"?
Hey Scott (or anybody in the steno pool) let's try to find out who's idea this was.
You know, so we can thank them.

Tree tour. What a great idea. Will time be provided for me to actually get off of the bus and get to know the trees personally? Perhaps hug one? Will granola be served on the bus?

I think this is a good idea: there is a lot to learn about looking after urban trees....I am sure all of the above posters drive their cars individually to events or do you all car pool?
I suppose this group also does not agree with the tour put on for seniors at Christmas time to see the lights.

@K Morant:

Don't worry, if all goes well next election we can give the mayor and laidlaw and their supporting cast a free tour out the door.

@ ernie, darn right, all this talk of trees from the city and the Gang of Eight on Council is driving people nuts!

When people start seeing these numbers, the dollars flying out the window so we can have the best tree canopy in Canada, their gonna freak. We have lots and lots of trees in Guelph, it's tree infested. Haha, time for focus on better roads like ring roads, sports facilities, keeping business taxes low to facilitate job growth and re-balance our public/commercial taxes rates.

Enough of the tree hugging already!

Unfortunately its not enough to look out of your window to make a determination of whether Guelph has enough trees.

According to a canopy study released in January 2012, Guelph has approx. 20% cover, much less than the 40% goal the city talked about in 2007.

In 2009, canopy cover was estimated at 25%. However the city’s natural wooded areas have shrunk by more than 46 hectares since then.


Trees benefit the city in many ways including their ability improve air quality, help mitigate the effects of climate change, aid in storm water management and decrease the ability of pollutants to get into groundwater.

From an individual point of view they protect against harmful UV radiation, help decrease household energy costs and improve property value.

If you'd like to learn more about all the ways they improve the liveability of urban communities there is a great powerpoint presentation on the Guelph Urban Forest Friends website that outlines all the reasons why we should be looking at ways to increase our urban canopy not decrease it.


The term tree-hugger should not be used negatively. We all need to become tree-huggers if we want to pass a liveable and healthy urban environment on to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

This has nothing to do with the so-called gang of eight (a laughable term, by the way, since 8 out of 12 is a sizable majority, not a gang). Practically every municipality in North America has recognized the benefits of an increased tree canopy and are planning ways to increase them.
As for Guelph being tree-infested...our 20% puts us on par with Toronto, who are also targeting an increase to 40%.

I really don't think it's about the trees. It's that raw nerve that keeps getting aggravated when our money is spent and wasted. It's another stick in the eye and we don't like it.

We have had enough and are tired of the financial boondoggles from the recycling center to city hall and the new bus depot. Many of us object to the free bus ride and think you should look for a sponsor or chip in a few bucks to pay for it. How about you ride your bikes and use those lanes that everyone wanted. Better yet - WALK ! You and the environment will be better off for it along with our pocket books.

And Bill hits at the real issue here. These folks are not real "treehuggers", ie people who are naturally frugal and conservative. They are charlatans using theses "green" schemes to siphon money out of working class folks. The joke will be on them soon, as soon there won't be any money left to siphon.

And yes Steve, the taxpayers of Toronto suffer the same woes.

I also note the wasteful irony of how the city has recently spent hundreds of thousand of dollars to clearcut large areas of healthy 30' to 40' trees in some parks only to then turn around and plant new 1' to 3' saplings.

Apparently some trees are better than others. And in 30 years, these new trees will return to the same canopy level that the ones they cut down provided now.

Science is now showing that ALGAE and NOT trees are the most important organisms for the production of 70 to 80 percent of the world's Oxygen. Tree's in fact reabsorb during the day most of the O2 they produce at night so to think they they have the greatest impact is incorrect. We should be actually cultivating pools of algae but they are slimy and sometimes smelly and not really huggable so I doubt anyone would want a tour of them (free or otherwise).

Good plan Bill. We could turn the "water feature" in front of our City Hall into a giant petri dish. I'm sure there is plenty of slime like substance available near by.

It may well be that the stats around our canopy cover are somewhat misleading. For the worse. Between all of the Norway Maple that we can expect to be broken in the next big wind and the old Sugar Maples that are clinging on, and should actually be taken down for safety reasons -- which I'm guessing are included in those stats -- we're needing action. It seems that talking about the current % of canopy is like looking at a dated snapshot.

On top of that, our young parkland trees are often damaged from maintenance equipment. It seems we aren't able to get ahead.

Managing trees is another aspect of city governance that most people don't even know about (hence most of the comments here). We can either leave it entirely up to city staff or we can educate and inform the citizens through events like the bus tour, so they can go out and plant and maintain their trees on their own property. Guess which approach is cheaper in the long run?

Sure, Steve, I get what staff are hoping for with this but I am having a hard time with seeing the outcome -- increased awareness for some of us, OK, and perhaps a feel-good event for a few about what is happening in the city, but what will actually follow from it and how will we know? What is the outcome of this use of tax dollars, measured how? The vehicle (forum) for this is very limited. Is a virtual map tour not more accessible? We need to get away from "if we convince one person to plant a tree today we've done our job" kind of thinking. We have media resources that simply weren't around not so long ago and are we making use of them as we should?

I found this on Cam Guthrie's Ward4news site about how much this little bus junket will cost us taxpayers:



What a bizarre focal point for all this griping. The city is spending $660 of funds already allotted to promote "Healthy Landscapes" on an event clearly in line with this purpose. Jan pointed out that mature trees significantly impact the costs of many public services and private property values, and management of the city's tree's requires oversight and planning on an ongoing basis. Craig's right - there is a discussion to be had about whether this is the best tactic. Much of the other criticism seems knee-jerk and trite.

@Bill: There's clearly a raw nerve. Is there evidence that the city's spending & strategy for managing the tree canopy is not up to snuff?

@Craig: Well put. IMO, a decent virtual tour would be great, but likely more costly than the bus tour. Accessibility may be a wash, each option has those it won't reach. Measuring outcomes for such a minor initiative would be fraught with the dangers that accompany a small sample size, but I would expect can be done effectively for the Healthy Landscapes plan as a whole, that's definitely worth looking into.

JB; I agree that accessibility remains an issue for those who don't have access to the internet in going with a virtual tour, which is an example of the value of the free internet access that has been provided through the GPL... that is now in jeopardy... but I think it would on the whole mean a lot more people could participate in it -- they could do it three o'clock in the morning if that was what they wanted/ were able to do according to what their schedule looked like. And they could refer to it later for their own planning ("what was that tree again?").

Also, consider the value of it for students, at all levels, in completing their assignments on this sort of thing.

Which brings me to the issue of cost -- I'm guessing we are comparatively better informed as a community than most in Southern Ontario on issues like the value of urban canopy, and we certainly have resources here that others don't with the U of G... so what about building on that capacity through more collaboration with our high schools or the U of G, or Conestoga College for students to produce it as a group project? What kind of real learning would happen for everyone if we went that way more often? Including for staff, when it comes to presenting info to various audiences, and for knowing what kind of questions and gaps in understanding are out actually there. Would it take some planning? Sure. Sometimes we need to take a step back and ensure we are making the best use of our resources, including those already present in the oommunity.

Craig, I've no issue with anything you're suggesting. It absolutely makes sense for city forestry initiatives to be a component in classroom & co-op opportunities for students from high school, college & university. As you indicated, this is already happening, and there's opportunity for broader collaboration beyond what you suggest. The comments on this post from the mayor's blog suggest that tweaks to relevant bylaws would also help the cause (http://mayorsblog.guelph.ca/2012/02/13/plant-trees-the-right-ones-and-do-it-now/#comment-3502). There's also community groups (http://www.opirgguelph.org/index.php?mode=2&linkID=1&l=0) and small businesses contributing to adding new trees (http://www.woolwicharrow.ca/community.html).

There are clearly many stakeholders willing to put resources toward meeting the city's goal of 40% canopy coverage, which is fantastic. Heck, there's even a brand new group that's putting on walking tours of the city's trees (for those offended by buses), but is speaking to these issues in the council meeting on Tuesday (http://guffguelph.ca/).

Instead of drowning everyone in further links, I'll get to the point. This tour is one tactic among many. It may be misguided, but that's not clear at first blush. Moreover it's an important issue, and it warrants an approach with diverse methods, sustained and adjusted over time. I'm truly perplexed by a the few folks who seemed to suggest that a tour such as this flat out shouldn't happen. It just seems like part of a bigger process that's worthy of seeing through.

Why doesn't the city just take the $600.00 and plant some trees. Perhaps they could maintain these trees while they are small too and then maybe the exercise won't be a complete waste of time and money. I know it's thinking outside the box but this will promote a healthy landscape.
Surely it's obvious this bus tour is akin to preaching to the choir.

obviously they are going to pull the global warming card. But I am a non believer of it because I think it doesn't exist and its a scam. Look at the activities of the sun before you say there is an emissions issue.

Well, JB, let's hope it's a success! (Though we don't really know how to measure that.)

Perhaps the best way to engage folks on this is to make it a tour of all of the rotted out Maples we're hanging onto. Use Exhibition Park. Sure, they're mature trees. With massive canopies. But with the right wind much of it could be gone. As I've said, what we're measuring is misleading. Knowing how bad a lot of our trees are is a way to frame an urgency to the situation, rather than celebrating what has been planted. Make the point that what we've got isn't what they may have thought it was.

I have no problem with the City undertaking educational programs aimed at teaching people better stewardship of our trees. I do however have a problem with a Forestry Division that seems bent on "managing an inventory of trees" as if they were desks or lampposts, blatantly lies to residents about its plans during the public consultation process, and seemingly ignores the fact that people actually enjoy the trees on a daily basis.

Okay, I've followed along for a couple of days now. Has nobody noticed the signs posted on a regular basis advertising free garden seminars hosted by the city. The turf grass institute also hosts seminars along the same lines. Why shouldn't the city promote indigenous trees? The more homeowners that can be encouraged, the better. Makes me glad that this is an online blog. The canopy would be down to 10% to continue this on "Letters to the editor:)"

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Joanne Shuttleworth is the newsroom lead in municipal affairs coverage for the Guelph Mercury. She is a former Guelph YWCA Woman of Distinction honouree and a past winner of an Ontario Newspapers Award for her work as an editor. You can reach her at jshuttleworth@guelphmercury.com

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