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Commemorative tree program put on pause starting next month

Posted in Canada, Featured

Published on December 22, 2023 with No Comments

Councillor says improved program should celebrate birthdays, marriages, grads

Elizabeth Gibb was “one determined lady,” while Jim Desson’s loved ones chose to remember him by quoting Baha’i writings.

Those are just two inscriptions on granite plaques lying beside saplings in Macdonald Gardens Park, planted through the city’s commemorative tree program.

The program allows families to remember a deceased relative by planting a tree. But the city is dealing with a backlog of applications and will put new intakes on hiatus starting next month.

The program is already at capacity, with 130 trees already planned for the next planting season, well beyond the usual 100.

City staff plan to review it and come back with a more streamlined version, which might also allow residents to celebrate other life moments, in addition to deaths.

Coun. Stéphanie Plante has been pushing for just that. She said trees can and should celebrate more than the recently departed.

“I thought it was kind of morbid that we only commemorate death when we want to replant trees,” Plante said.

“One of the suggestions I gave, which was accepted, was that we look at [the] commemorative tree program in a more diverse way … We want to celebrate birthdays and marriages and graduations.”

She expects that the new program will be a little bit less bureaucratic.

“I don’t think tree planting should be that complicated,” she said.

In a memo to councillors, staff said the commemorative tree program involves much more administrative work than other tree planting efforts.

Jason Pollard, the city’s section manager for forestry, explained in an email that the program requires communication, planning, review, site visits and financial tracking.

The pause will allow staff to focus on other tree planting programs, which don’t eat up as much administrative time.

Pollard said there will also be a program review, which will “seek to create a more efficient, cost-effective program,” and it will explore possibilities of broadening opportunities for commemorative tree planting.

He explained that applications for next year are slightly above the historical average, though that isn’t the whole story for why the program reached capacity so early. Previous requests were pushed back as staff responded to the May 2022 derecho, leading to a backlog.

According to the city, any applications received by Jan. 14 will still be processed for the 2024 planting season. Intake is expected to resume in late summer of next year.

The city said the pause will not impact overall tree planting numbers over the next two planting seasons.

Plante said the $400 fee for commemorative trees hasn’t increased in 20 years and isn’t enough to cover costs. She said it may have to increase to offset the cost of hiring even more staff to process applications.

 

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