Creating an urban jungle

The largest urban tree-planting campaign in Canadian history

Creating an urban jungle

Photography Stephanie Lim

Vancouver’s push to become the planet’s greenest city includes a bold new plan to plant 150,000 trees in the next decade, in what might be the largest urban tree-planting campaign in Canadian history. Indeed, it’s one of North America’s “most aggressive targets,” says deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston. Mayor Gregor Robertson snagged the 36-year-old whiz kid from a high-profile gig as Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s environmental czar a year ago; Johnston is also the unofficial point man for Robertson’s “Greenest City” initiative, aimed at turning Vancouver into the world’s environmental pacesetter by 2020.

As for the trees, the interim goal is to get 50,000 more in city-owned spaces within the next five years, before ramping up planting starting in 2015. Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation will have a total cost estimate ready next spring, when council will be asked to okay the program. But things are already rolling. Last month, Falaise Park, in the city’s east end, got 25 fruit trees, the first of three new fruit-bearing orchards going into city parks ahead of the spring.

And businesses, like it or not, will be key to the program’s success. The city will likely ask businesses to put 56,000 trees in the ground, says Johnston. Mandating that new towers, for instance, add an undefined number of trees to their plans is being discussed, he says. The payoff: not only are tree-lined streets great for property values, says Johnston, but trees play a big part in the atmospherics market researchers drool over. A year-old University of Washington study found that consumers spend 12 per cent more in treed shopping districts than in those without.

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