Before you plant a tree, you have to think about where it’s going to go.
Will it be in the ground or a planter?
Is it a sunny or shady area?
And how much room will it have to grow?
These are some of the questions urban forestry and parks staff at the City of Coquitlam ask as they hand out free trees this year to Coquitlam residents as part of the municipality’s first-ever Tree Spree program.
Launched in April under a $250,000 package that includes a boost to public parks this summer, Tree Spree aims to double the number of trees planted annually — from 5,000 to 10,000 — on public and private land.
As of (Tuesday) Sept. 13, the city had reached more than half of its goal, said Kathleen Reinheimer, Coquitlam’s parks manager, while watching another tree being added to Town Centre Park: a Chinese fringetree.
Planted by Jeff Case, Coquitlam’s urban forest service supervisor, along a newly carved pathway on the northeastern side of Lafarge Lake, the tree is “native to Asia, fragrant and stunning,” he said.
With the city’s arborist, Case is one of the many staff on site when city tours and tree giveaways happen at community events such as festivals and block parties.
With each tree handout, Case and his team want to discuss with Coquitlam residents the specifics — that is, where the tree will be placed and how it’s to be planted.
Gone are the days when cedar seedlings were distributed, Reinheimer said; now, dogwoods, Japanese maples and other hardy young trees — tolerant to a wide range of soil and weather conditions — are passed along to residents for their properties.
“We have a tree for everybody and every where,” Case said.
“It’s all about getting the right tree in the right place.”
TREE CANOPY COVER
The trees come from several Lower Mainland nurseries, said Erin Gorby, Coquitlam’s urban forestry and park services manager, and are purchased at wholesale cost.
Funding for the trees is offset with grants from Tree Canada and other sources.
Gorby said given the impact of climate change, the need to boost the city’s tree canopy is greater than ever to provide shade and filter the air, among other things.
Currently, the tree cover stands at about 40 per cent (within the Urban Containment Boundary) — better than most Metro Vancouver municipalities, she said.
By comparison, according to a 2019 regional study, Port Coquitlam’s cover is at 23 per cent and Port Moody’s is at 53 per cent.
“Coquitlam has a really enviable tree canopy cover,” Gorby said. “We want to make sure that we maintain it, improve it and distribute it equally across our neighbourhoods.”
Reinheimer said Coquitlam is not only working with the public and developers, but city staff are also reaching out to 20 schools to find new places for trees on School District 43 campuses.
In turn, the students get a lesson about how to help Mother Nature, Reinheimer said.
As for the city, it’s planting more trees in open spaces and along boulevards this year.
And, this fall, staff will also dive into an urban forest management plan that will measure Coquitlam’s tree canopy cover.
Case said as the new trees go in, city staff sometimes refer to the world-class arboretum at səmiq̓ʷəʔelə/Riverview Lands, a century-old site off Lougheed Highway.
There, they can see what a tree species will look like in 100 years, and assess its shape and size for future years.
To learn more about Coquitlam’s tree-planting initiative, go to coquitlam.ca/treespree.
- Wednesday, Sept. 21, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. to mark Canadian National Tree Day. Distribution takes place at Blue Mountain, Glen and Victoria parks.
- Thursday, Sept. 29 from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Town Centre Park
You can also email the city’s Park Spark team to learn more about tree varieties and availability: email@example.com.
The next tree walk is Thursday, Sept. 29 from 9 to 11 a.m. at Town Centre Park. The city’s Park Spark and urban forestry staff will talk about the city’s tree canopy and other environmental benefits. Participants will receive a free tree afterwards. To register, email the Park Spark team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join the Park Spark team on Sept. 24 from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at Hoy Creek and learn fun facts about the trees, flora and fauna found in Coquitlam parks. The walks occur rain or shine. Participants are given a free tree to take home and plant after each nature walk. To register, email the Park Spark team: email@example.com.