Preserving Creemore: Considering Trees During Major Reconstruction

January-February 2007

THERE ARE MANY QUAINT SMALL TOWNS in rural Ontario. Creemore remains one of them. The residential main street is lined with majestic old sugar maple trees which provide a shady canopy in the summertime. Numerous cafés, shops and galleries offer interesting spots for visitors. You can learn a lot about the town simply by having lunch at a local café. Some residents have lived in town for many years, while others will be newcomers for a long time. In late 2005, I was informed of the Mill Street Reconstruction Project, Phase 1. This would involve water supply and storm sewer reconstruction, as well as road and sidewalk reconstruction, on the main street of Creemore. Following the construction period, trees would be replaced.

was retained by Clearview Township, Simcoe County, to evaluate existing trees in the reconstruction area. I would be involved with all aspects of tree removal, replacement and consultation with all parties concerned. The plan was to replace the trees that would be directly affected by construction and also those trees that would not survive the construction period (following 3 years).

After meeting on site with Cecil Gratrix from R.J. Burnside & Associates Ltd. (consulting engineers), and Kevin Elwood, owner of Clearview Nursery Ltd. (local nurseryman), I suggested that a report be prepared to include a visual assessment and write up carried out jointly by Kevin Elwood and myself. This would satisfy all parties: Clearview Township, the townspeople, consulting engineers, and both arborists. This was the beginning of a great project involving a number of people and groups interacting successfully to achieve their vision.
There were concerns from several directions about tree matters:

• the potential effect of construction on the trees
• the poor condition of some of the existing trees
• preservation of all trees possible
• species of trees to be planted
• number and size of trees to be planted
• long term care of existing and newly planted trees

Our Findings
In late November and early December, 2005, Kevin and I spent two days walking the town and gathering information on the existing trees and their locations relative to proposed construction activity. In order to present our findings to various parties, we documented our visual assessment by street address and species, summarized the data into three groups, and also colour coded the three groups of trees on the construction drawing:

1) trees to be preserved; healthy or healthy enough to survive 3 years beyond the construction activity
2) trees that would be affected by watermain reconstruction; to be replaced after construction
3) trees that would be removed, due to poor health; to be replaced after construction.

Of the 74 trees inspected, we recommended preserving 47, including 37 sugar maples. Another 10 trees would be potentially affected by watermain and catch basin reconstruction, including 9 sugar maples. We recommended that watermains and catchbasins be relocated if possible in order to preserve any healthy trees; however, some of these structures were being replaced/updated and were not new installations. The remaining 17 trees were in poor health or were hazardous trees, including 15 sugar maples. We recommended their removal, prior to construction.
We suggested meetings on site with all interested parties regarding tree preservation practices prior to construction and during construction and for locations for replacement trees. We also recommended follow up watering and deep root fertilization. Our report was submitted and reviewed by several parties, including: Richard Spraggs, Engineer, Director of Public Works, Clearview Township; R.J. Burnside & Associates Limited, Consulting Engineers, Collingwood; and Creemore Tree Committee, Chair Diane McKay. At this point in time, our report was made widely available to the public.

The Process
Over the winter and spring of 2006, an Information Open House was held and construction plans were finalized. The Creemore Tree Committee (CTC), formed in 1990, provided valuable input along the way. The CTC gathered information from International Society of Arboriculture (Ontario) members. This included suggestions on working with planners for tree preservation (John McNeil, Town of Oakville), as well as recommendations on species and guidelines for street trees (Doug Wells, York Region; Tami Sadonoja, City of Hamilton; Karen Moyer, City of Waterloo). The information was discussed and incorporated into the project.

The CTC started fundraising to enable us to plant larger trees, hoping to increase the size from 2” to 3”+ in diameter. Not only was this a successful venture, but the residents of Creemore became more aware of the project through regular articles in the Creemore Echo newspaper submitted by the CTC. Some residents, who did not have an existing tree, asked for a tree to be planted, and, after discussions with the CTC and Richard Spraggs, the requests were accommodated. Again, this is a great example of participation by various people and groups with a shared goal.

Communication throughout the project was certainly an asset. At the Saturday Farmers’ Market, the CTC discussed our report and findings with many of the village residents, endorsing the overall project. In June, Richard Spraggs personally set out to visit each property owner along Mill St. who had tree(s) scheduled for removal. Some of these trees were located on private property and others were on the town boulevard. In the case of private property, the Township offered to maintain the new tree for 2 years after which the tree would become their responsibility. Kevin and I were available to discuss all tree concerns with residents, including existing trees on their own properties. Having professionals involved eased people’s minds regarding their trees. One by one, we worked through any issues, right up to and including the actual planting.

A pre-construction meeting was held with Township staff, R.J. Burnside & Associates Ltd. and Darpak Inc. (contractor) to clarify scheduling and general operations. Tree removal commenced in July, prior to construction as originally recommended. Because construction space was very tight, crews were made well aware of the limitations they would have to work under to ensure the trees were not subjected to any undue stress. Mid-September was set as the goal for completion of construction. After that, the trees would be planted – hopefully when there would be some natural moisture in the ground and after the heat of summer.

In mid-July, it was time to discuss construction progress and start thinking about replacing trees. Richard and I walked Mill St. ‘reconstruction in progress’ and then held an open meeting. Richard explained the construction process and I explained options for tree species and planting locations relative to the existing trees. There were concerns about planting only sugar maple and creating a monoculture. Since Creemore is a very old town, there are lots of tree species growing there already. Planting young sugar maples among the existing mature sugar maples is healthy for the tree population. We also recommended adding other species for interest and variety. Others were concerned about planting trees in locations other than where trees were removed. Most of these issues could be dealt with later on, when we could walk Mill St. together to determine tree planting locations and further discuss species options.
In mid-September, we held an open meeting, including Richard Spraggs, Kevin Elwood, members of the CTC, interested residents, and myself. On our walkabout, we agreed upon 39 potential locations for planting trees. This was such wonderful news, considering only 27 trees were removed. We selected a variety of species, according to available growing space, owner requests, preservation of the old Creemore look, and earlier recommendations: sugar maple, flowering crabapple, pioneer elm, serviceberry, linden, red oak, crimson king maple, cherry, and white spruce. All trees met or exceeded 3” diameter (80 mm) expectation, except for the cherry tree planted at an owner’s request.

Planting Time
We agreed to split tree planting between the two nurseries involved with the whole project, Belcroft Tree Farm and Clearview Nursery Ltd., based on availability and size of trees. Trees were planted on October 19 and 20, 2006. When the crews arrived, they worked together, including sharing mulch, equipment and techniques. Kevin’s crew looked after a few details in the following weeks and I inspected the new trees after high winds. This is another example of working beyond expectations – it isn’t everyday that potential competitors work together successfully towards a common goal.

Brad Holden, from the Creemore Echo, took photos of this event and local residents visited with the planting crews, Richard, and me, throughout the day. Diane McKay, CTC Chair, also dropped by to see the regreening of Mill Street. The tree planting was an amazing conclusion to a necessary reconstruction project.

With much cooperation, communication and genuine interest from individuals and groups, this project is one example of small town success. The regreening of Mill Street was completed successfully and harmoniously while satisfying the interests of the township, the individual homeowners, the village tree committee, the project contractors, and the contributing arborists. That is no easy task and a tribute to all involved. The residents themselves showed great resolve in accepting the fact that many of the trees had lived their lives and it was time to start trees for the next generation. Although there are not a lot of written rules and regulations in Clearview Township, great care was taken by all parties to work and cooperate along the way. From planning, to tree evaluation, construction, tree preservation, local news coverage, public involvement, response of property owners, tree planting, and future tree maintenance, the parties involved were responsible for their work and also willing to rely on each other’s expertise. This is truly what life is all about. ©

— Cathy V. Bentley, Certified Arborist and Professional Forester

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