Way Ahead: Edmonton's Urban Forests
Urban trees represent an irreplaceable asset for cities, and unlike most municipal infrastructure a trees’ value will increase over its life span. In technical terms, an urban forest refers to the trees located within a city’s limits, whether planted or naturally occurring.
Urban trees represent an irreplaceable asset for cities, and unlike most municipal infrastructure a trees' value will increase over its life span. In technical terms, an urban forest refers to the trees located within a city's limits, whether planted or naturally occurring. Trees found in parks, naturalized areas, rooftops, commercial or industrial lands are all considered part of the urban forest. Careful environmental considerations, integrated community goals, and long term infrastructure will determine the success and preservation of a cities urban forest.
The city of Edmonton is in the middle of a 10 year Urban Forest Management Plan ( UFMP). The UFMP is a result of collaborative developments between affected stakeholders and the public to provide strategic direction for Edmonton's entire urban forest. Edmonton's geography offers a unique river valley, which comprises the longest stretch of connected urban parkland in North America. The river valley is estimated to be 22 times larger than New York City's Central Park. This main "Ribbon of Green" is supplemented by numerous neighborhood parks located throughout the city, to give a total of 111 km2 of parkland. Within the 7,400 ha, 25 km long river valley park system, there are 11 lakes, 14 ravines, and 22 major parks, and most of the city can access the parks via bike and walking trails.
The UFMP plan has 4 principles that aims to not only enhance the forest but to ensure that it will serve the community for many generations to come:
1. Promote a healthy and sustainable urban forest
2. Engage the community in protecting and managing the urban forest
3. Think globally and regionally; plan and act locally
4. Use best practices, innovation, science, information and technology.
In 2010 the Corporate Tree Policy determined economic tree assessment guidelines and estimated the value of the publicly owned portion of Edmonton's urban forest at more than $1.2 billion. Using modeling programs developed by the United States Department of Agriculture and Forest Service, the UFMP measured urban forest's ability to clean the air, reduce storm water runoff, sequester carbon and increase biodiversity. Combining field observations, meteorological information and air quality readings, Edmonton's forest removed an estimated 531 tons of pollutants in 2009, an achievement worth more than $3 million.
The UFMP has been integrated into existing urban strategic plans for Edmonton known as "The Way Ahead", which focuses on improving the city's infrastructure and overall quality of life. However, there is sometimes resistance to turning parks into natural forest because many people simply assume a park should be manicured with vast open space. Planners and designers need to educate the public about the environmental benefits and conjure up contemporary designs for the traditional parks, which people may be confused without.
Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014