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Collingwood tree canopy policy falls behind as population grows

While council approved a forest plan in 2020, implementation has been slow according to town staff due to other pressures such as the COVID-19 pandemic
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Erika Engel/CollingwoodToday

With Collingwood’s population rapidly increasing, the town is behind when it comes to its policies around tree canopy, according to a staff report headed to councillors on Monday.

“Council’s renewed calls for tree preservation and augmentation in 2022 in light of the rapid growth and development coming to Collingwood is prudent,” noted strategic advisor Jason Reynar in his report to the committee being considered on Monday. "Over the next several months, administration recommends that council authorize funding for external expertise and support to complete several important tasks."

During Monday’s (Aug. 8) strategic initiatives standing committee meeting, councillors will be considering a recommendation to spend up to $100,000 to retain a consultant to inform the next council on how Collingwood can better protect tree canopy. Staff will also be asking councillors to approve an additional $75,000 tree maintenance and removal in 2022, to be taken from the operating contingency fund reserve.

“As a primary settlement area, Collingwood will intensify with increased density, which may result in tree canopy coverage being reduced on a specific lot; however, at a municipal or regional level, the vision to grow the tree canopy overall is one critical component to our long-term sustainability and well-being," wrote Reynar.

Several recommendations would be considered as part of any consultant report if approved at the council level.

Staff are suggesting the town’s Urban Design Manual and Development Engineering Standards need to be updated to reflect the latest standards for preserving, protecting and augmenting the tree canopy through the development process.

“Council has previously questioned whether the current standard of 30 per cent tree canopy coverage at maturity is sufficient. The review of this standard will therefore need to take into account the anticipated survival and growth rates,” notes Reynar.

Staff are recommending an updated private tree bylaw should also be considered, as well as a draft site alteration bylaw to address the protection of other natural heritage features such as wetlands and vegetation. A tree monitoring and inventory system should also be set up, which was part of the town’s forest plan that has not yet been implemented. Public consultation is also suggested as part of any consultant work to be done.

In February 2020, council adopted an Urban Forest Management Plan and the concept of an urban forestry unit.

Although the plan proposed funding from 2020-2029 of $2,259,025 for the endeavour, no new human or financial resources have been approved through the budget process to date according to town staff, notwithstanding administrative requests in the past two town budgets. In 2021 and 2022, the town spent between $200,000 and $300,000 per year for tree maintenance/removal and trimming.

Of the 41 recommendations in the Urban Forest Management Plan, staff says only the review of the Official Plan to develop new policies that support the urban forest is currently underway. The delay in accomplishing the other recommendations in the plan is “a result of resource constraints and other pressing priorities (e.g., COVID-19 response and recovery),” according to the staff report.

The new draft Official Plan, which was first presented to council in July, suggests the town should achieve a minimum of 30 per cent tree canopy cover by 2041.

The town's Urban Forest Management Plan calculated the 2018 tree canopy coverage at 31.7 per cent. As such, the targets set out in the official plan may change, according to staff.

The strategic initiatives standing committee meeting will take place on Monday, Aug. 8 at 2 p.m. at Collingwood’s town hall council chambers. The meeting will also be streamed live through the town’s YouTube channel here.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood, County of Simcoe and education.
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