The neighbourhood of Cabbagetown has many stories to tell and its urban forest is no exception. On Sunday afternoon, June 1, 2014, over 50 people joined LEAF and Cabbagetown ReLEAF to explore the tremendous diversity of trees in this community. Led by James Steenberg and Melissa Williams, the group encountered everything from stately oaks to flowering magnolias to rugged forests growing on ravine slopes. The Tree Tour wound through quiet residential streets and parks, through Riverdale Farm and along the edge the Lower Don Valley.
Participants visited an enormous white ash tree that will hopefully survive the Emerald Ash Borer. “Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive insect that is devastating the 860,000 ash trees in Toronto,” said Melissa Williams, Acting Program Manager at LEAF. “Large, old trees in our urban forest provide us with so many environmental, economic and social benefits, so we’re really hoping this one lives on!”
Last winter’s ice storm damaged many trees across the city, including a silver maple tree in Riverdale Park. The tour stopped to investigate the impact. “We want to maintain Cabbagetown’s urban forest and help it recover from the ice storm,” said James Steenberg, co-chair of Cabbagetown ReLEAF, a volunteer group that is working with LEAF to get more trees planted in the city. “Showcasing the neighourhood’s trees to the community is the first step.”
Most of the stops on the tour highlighted living trees, but one stop focused on a dead tree. It wasn’t just any dead tree though, and it certainly wasn’t one that would be hauled away and chipped. This tree had been carved into a sculpture of barred owls by Jim Menken. Real barred owls do live in the park, but they’re fairly shy, so these are the only ones most people get to see! This sculpture is a great example of urban wood utilization, which is growing in popularity as a way to re-use a valued urban resource that might otherwise be considered a waste.