Getting Street Trees where they are needed the most.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Free Tree Press

Hamilton Spectator, June 23, 2013 Page A3

A group of McMaster students who decided to steer the city's Street Tree Program toward the Keith neighbourhood couldn't be happier with the results.

So far, 35 Keith residents have ordered 43 trees to be planted on their properties by city staff in September, free of charge.

"A lot of people were very receptive and we got a lot of positive feedback," said Jonathan Valencia, air quality co-ordinator for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at McMaster.

OPIRG decided to use the city's existing program, which offers free trees to homeowners, to start a pilot project to focus on an area they felt could really benefit from the planting of more trees.

After reading a study by Dr. Denis Corr for Clean Air Hamilton, Randy Kay noticed Keith showing really high readings for air pollutants.

"Keith was perfect for a trial because in a sense it's a small geographic area — there's not a lot of houses, and the Social Planning and Research Council did a study on the Code Red neighbourhoods and 70 per cent of people own their homes here," said Kay, who is OPIRG's co-ordinator of volunteers.

This made a door to door canvas an effective way to talk to residents. Valencia led a team of volunteers and covered every street in the neighbourhood, which is centred around Wentworth Street North between the CN rail tracks and the harbour, with the hope of getting the residents keen on trees while letting them know about the program and its benefits.

About 300 doors later, homeowners who hadn't known about the program are now taking advantage of the opportunity.

Keith resident Cathy Larocque thinks it's an excellent program.

"I got one for health reasons and to filter out the air, and they maintain it for me," she said.

Michelle Chesbro said residents in the area have worked hard over the past few years on cleaning it up. She plans to spread the word about the program.

"Trees are great, not only are they pretty, they help to clean the air," said Chesbro.

Last year, the city planted 5,800 trees under the program. How it works is residents contact the city to request a tree, and staff visit the proposed site to determine if there is enough space.

"It's a little investment for a long-term payoff," Kay said.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Public Works


(Membership 9/Quorum 5) 

L. Ferguson – Chair
T. Whitehead – Vice-Chair
 C. Collins
S. Duvall
T. Jackson
B. McHattie
S. Merulla
R. Pasuta
R. Powers

We will be seeing some or all of these councillors in September at the Public Works Committee when we present our recommendations regarding the city's street tree program. Jonathan is pulling together his research to present, and we hope the committee supports our goal of making Hamilton a greener, cleaner and safer city for all residents!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Final Push!

Following some very successful weeks in the Keith Neighbourhood, it's time to wrap things up! A total of 45 trees have been signed up for in Keith Neighbourhood, with an additional 13 trees being asked for in the surrounding area.  

Today is the last day I will be going door-to-door...I have left Keith Street untouched because I wanted to have enough experience before I tackled the street with the least amount of trees in this area. The day has come, and hopefully my previous success will aid me in getting a few more trees planted here today!

Here's the link of the map showing the tree sign up progress thus far:,-79.83902&spn=0.031563,0.0739

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Unequal Trees?

Can we see income disparity from space? It seems we can. This article explains the concept:

Here are some google map images of our beloved Hamilton Ontario: can you see what we mean?

BBQ Street Trees

Hot, but fun time at the Keith Neighbourhood BBQ today: more people signed up for free street trees! No shade trees in the vicinity of our table though...

Going to a Barbecue!

View Street Tree Project in a larger map 

 OPIRG McMaster's Street Tree Project will have a table at today's Community BBQ in the Keith Neighbourhood in the park across the road from the Eva Rothwell Centre on Wentworth Street North. Food and displays!

We are hoping to sign up a few more people from the neighbourhood who will join other residents in getting a free street tree from the city in the fall.

Drop by and say hello to Jonathan (Johnny) Valencia, OPIRG's summer student in charge of the project.

Click on the map link above for directions from McMaster on the bus.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"One mighty flowering tree..."

“And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.” – Black Elk

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Amur Maple

After this weekend, we have signed up quite a large number of people which gives me the opportunity to do a little analysis on the most popular trees. The Amur Maple is the most wanted tree, being chosen a total of 12 times. However, the Eastern Redbud is not far behind with 11 picks. 

The Amur Maple is a small tree, growing between 5-8 meters in height. It has a wonderful bright red colour during the fall, and it is for that reason that many have picked this gorgeous tree! You would be amazed to know that this specie is not native to Canada, or North America for that matter. It's actually native to Japan and northeast China, only to be introduced to North America in the 1860s. Here's a picture of the Amur Maple in the fall:

With a few streets yet to service, the popularity contest between the Amur Maple and the Eastern Redbud will soon have a clear winner...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Door to Door Day

The Street Tree project was helped today by students from nearby St. Ann's Catholic Elementary school who went door to door to sign people up for street trees. Alex Ramirez of the OPIRG Board of Directors was there assisting students with the project on behalf of his OPIRG McMaster working group Hamilton Student Community Initiative.
After a few mentoring opportunities with our Project Leader Johnny, the students successfully managed to get several new people signed up for trees on Burton Street.

Johnny also provided the volunteers with snacks, sandwiches and cold drinks. In a short time we had 10 more trees to add to the dozens already requested, and we still have more streets to attend to!

Thank you to Alex and the team from St. Ann's!

If you are interested in volunteering with this project, please contact or 905-525-9140 ext. 26026.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Impetus

This project began with a realization or synthesis of a few elements:
1. Denis Corr's mobile air monitoring showing some neighbourhoods had air pollution issues measurably worse than others
2. There is some evidence that less-well-to-do areas have less urban forest canopy than financially more-wealthy neighbourhoods
3. Trees can improve air quality
4. The City of Hamilton has a free street tree program

The primary goal is to target the street tree program to areas most in need of a refreshed urban forest canopy. So basically, more trees where they are needed most.

Happily, the response from residents in the Keith neighbourhood has been overwhelmingly positive. Meeting so many people here has been fun and rewarding. Coming from McMaster, we are getting a first hand look at what a well-organized community HUB there is here, and how friendly and welcoming the people are.

What started as a bit of an abstract idea has definitely come to a much more human, face-to-face experience that is teaching us the depth of resiliency Hamilton has at the grassroots. For that we are most grateful to the people of the Keith Neighbourhood!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Word's Getting Out

Happy to make an appearance in the community newspaper North End Breezes! Thanks to the editor for including an article about the Street Tree Project on page 9 (see link below).

You can download a pdf of the paper here:

Johnny signing people up for street trees on Wentworth Street Tuesday afternoon

For clarification, J. Valencia (that's our Johnny, OPIRG McMaster's student project staff) is not part of nor representing "Mobile Monitoring, an Air Quality Monitoring Project Wentworth North/Eva Rothwell Centre Area" He's representing the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) McMaster, we're proud to say!

Mapping Progress

View Street Tree Project in a larger map

Project staffer Johnny is keeping track of the street tree requests we've collected in the Keith Neighbourhood on a google map. This is a work in progress with two big pushes coming in the next couple weeks to collect more locations to make the neighbourhood a lot greener. More on this subject later!

Shrubbing the Air?

Our project is focused on residential but there are lots of opportunities for local commercial industries to get with the greening going on in the neighbourhood. A shout out to Denningers for the shrubs along the sides of their warehouse at Brant and Hillyard. Sure, trees provide shade and other benefits, but shrubs also provide benefits to improve air quality and aesthetics. Going Green can take many forms!

If you live in the Keith Neighbourhood and want a free street tree for your front yard, get in touch with us, we can help you get it done! 905-525-9140 ext. 26026 or e-mail Johnny Valencia at