When it comes tree canopy in Cumberland, less of the community is covered than it used to be.
According to consultant Lana Tutt of Tilia Arboriculture, the amount of the community covered by trees dropped from 70 per cent in 1976 down to 56 per cent in 2018.
She and Verna Mumby of Mumby’s Arboriculture Consulting appeared before Cumberland council on Nov. 25 to update the Village on their work on the Cumberland urban forest management plan. This plan will be looking at issues around trees and how they fit into the growing community.
“Your urban forest management plan is going to be your guiding document that you can use for the next 20 years,” said Mumby.
Through the process, they surveyed people and inventoried the tree cover in the community. While there was no open house, they did receive 285 responses online to get the public’s feedback. This was followed by analysis to put together reports for the Village.
“In the document we’ve listed off 45 recommendations, with some set criteria for the next five years, or 10 or 15,” Mumby said.
Other findings from the process found that the percentage of the community covered by canopy is much higher in non-urban areas than urban areas. While this might not be a surprise, the figure for non-urban land is 62 per cent versus 20 per cent for urban.
Part of the project was to put together recommendations, so the consultants have made a long list for the community to consider. These include implementation of a bylaw around tree removal as well as enforcement policies. One recommends maintaining the current 56 per cent overall canopy rate and increasing urban tree component up to 30 per cent.
“We do see there is public support for that,” Tutt said, adding that 76 per cent of respondents feel the canopy targets should be increased over the current level, and 89 per cent want increased urban tree canopy.
Some of the recommendations are designed around increasing species diversity, especially in places like new subdivisions, where often only one type of tree is planted. The hope is to add more species in these areas.
“What this is setting us up for is resilience,” Tutt said. “When a forest is composed of less species diversity, it’s less resilient to things like climate change, and pest and disease outbreaks.”
As well, the consultants recommend a better mix of ages of species. The guidelines call for a ratio of 40 per cent young trees, 30 per cent semi-mature, 20 per cent mature and 10 per cent old. At present, the tree cover is 65 per cent young and only six per cent old.
“In Cumberland, we were really heavily skewed toward the young,” Tutt said.
The protection of trees on private property is also another issue for the community to consider through the creation of a bylaw.
“This bylaw needs to be simple and effective,” Tutt said. “I know that tree protection bylaws can be a little bit controversial.”
Finally, some recommendations outline the need for public education and engagement. Tutt and Mumby emphasized that Cumberland residents are involved already, but they encouraged council to provide information on its website.
“We know that Cumberland is very engaged,” Tutt said.
Council members expressed enthusiasm for the findings in the report.
“This is one of the most comprehensive reports I think I’ve ever read,” Coun. Sean Sullivan said.
Mayor Leslie Baird added, “Many of the things we’ve been wanting to do…. It’s nice to see them in writing.”
At the end of the presentation, council voted on a motion to share the plan on the Village website and hold an open house for the public in 2020 and seek public comment on the recommendations.