It's a misty evening here in Belleville, Ontario. Outside my window soft spring rain lends a hush to the night air. The stately brick homes of the Belleville's Old East Hill rest peacefully wrapped in the gentle embrace of giant Oaks, Maples, Beech, Spruce and Pine. The trees bring so many gifts to the city and it's inhabitants, season after season, without ever asking for anything in return, other than to be admired and thanked now and then.
Many of the old trees that line the streets of Ontario's heritage towns are dying. They are dying not because of neglect or disease. Their decline is a gradual and natural process due to aging. We often forget that trees grow old and die too. Perhaps this is because they live so much longer than us and in some regions of the world some species can live thousands of years.
Kathleen Wolf of the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture points out that studies show homebuyers will pay 3-7 % more for properties with an abundance of trees. I would estimate that real estate sales in the Quinte region not only prove Kathleen's point, but that here the percentage is likely much higher. Not a week goes by that I don't have a call from someone looking for a vacant piece of land to build on, not too far from the city and what is their number one desire in their search ? Trees ! Trees sell ! Trees are the ultimate home stagers. They give shade and cleaner air on hot muggy days. They cut the harsh winds on stormy days. They attract squirrels and all manner of our bird friends.... refreshment for the soul and a connection to our natural roots.
The Elms are making a comeback. Disease resistant varieties are now being planted in many towns . Elms are stately trees that grow over 100 feet tall and send deep roots down hence making them better to withstand the harshness of life on a city street . The salt run-off, limited soil cover, pavement and sidewalks blocking water from penetrating the soil, pollutant laden air and rain and not enough nutrients since we gather their fallen leaves each fall and cart them away, all work towards a very stressful life for a city tree.
Be kind to trees and they will be kind to you. It may be a good idea to plant young trees in your yard now, that way as the older ones slowly die off, the youngsters will be there to take their place. Since they can't be in the forest propagating their own offspring, maybe we can give them a helping hand !
One of the finest places to experience 'a forest in the city' atmosphere, when in Belleville, is to take a walk down the Parrott Riverfront Trail . The trail winds through a myriad of old and stately trees and wildish areas filled with bird song . On a hot day in the city you can find respite if you pack a picnic lunch and a blanket, and stay cool under the shade of a giant old pine or one of the grand maples that line the walk. You will leave feeling refreshed and looking forward to the next time .