• treesmatterfrederi

CBC: New group seeks to develop urban tree policy for Fredericton by Cassidy Chisholm

A Fredericton woman is planting the beginnings of what she hopes will become a group dedicated to improving appreciation of the city's urban forest.

"I think cities are just waking up to the idea that trees are not decorative, they're not luxuries, they're not a nice thing to plant on your lawn," said Kathryn Downton, a social worker who founded the Trees Matter group.

"They are part of our essential infrastructure in terms of what's going to get us through the next years."

Downton was inspired to create the group when she noticed trees being cut down in the city.

"I've seen some really ad hoc approaches towards our trees and over time, this just began to bother me," she said. "I lived along the St. John River, by Carleton Park, when all the trees along there disappeared."

She wants the Trees Matter group to develop an extensive urban tree policy alongside the city.

The group's first meeting will be held Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at the Odell Park Lodge.

Mike Walker, the manager of parks and trees in Fredericton, said the city has started talking with the group but already has policies to protect urban trees.

"We plant trees on an annual basis, we maintain our trees to high standards and we take a lot of pride in the urban forest," he said.

But Downton contends it's not enough.

"You look at cities like Calgary and Montreal, granted they're much bigger cities, but they have a very solid tree policy in place so they don't have the kind of debates that we're having here," she said.

By working with the city, she's hoping decisions will be made proactively and with public input.

"I know Officers' Square has left a very bad taste in a lot of people's mouths and hats off to all the people who have been working on that," she said.

The City of Fredericton said no more trees will be removed for the Officers' Square project.

"But it's hard when you're starting so late in the debate."

She said a tree policy should recognize trees as city infrastructure, list rules regarding the safety of public trees and acknowledge damaging impacts on trees — factors that everyone would have to be on board with.

"People across every sector have relationships with trees in our city and we need a better relationship with our urban forest and that's where we start," she said.

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