IN CASE you missed it, Saturday was Thunder Bay’s version of Arbor Day. City officials and other hardy folks with shovels, pails and wheelbarrows in tow were to gather at Dalhousie Parkette on the city’s south side to plant some much-needed trees and bushes.
In other parts of the world, Arbor Day is held at the end of April, but it’s still too chilly then to try and plant a tree in the Lakehead.
Arbor Days are part of ongoing “urban forest” initiatives sprouting up across the globe, especially in cities like Thunder Bay, which have not long been known for an abundance of downtown trees, but have been working towards some lofty goals.
The city is aiming to ensure about 30 per cent of its land mass is covered in a tree canopy by next year. That would be very good indeed, when compared to Canadian municipalities that are particularly known for having ample canopy cover, like Vancouver. Meeting the goal and maintaining it will be challenge, given that the Emerald Ash borer beetle is now fairly ensconced in the Lakehead.
Last year, more than 300 trees, including species of poplar and maple, were planted in Thunder Bay’s Intercity area to try and address flooding issues.
Simply put, even a deluge can be somewhat mitigated if the rain has to work its way down through a myriad of branches and broad leaves before it hits the ground. Trees also help to firm up the landscape.
They also create oxygen and shade, something the Doug Ford government presumably didn’t fully appreciate when it chopped funding this year for a province-wide subsidy to support the planting of 50 million seedlings. This is particularly ironic, since the provincial capital is situated in Toronto, another North American city known for its ample urban forests.
In the North, some of us tend not to get too weepy about trees, perhaps because they are largely associated with spruce and pine species, staples of Crown production forests that provide necessary employment.
Still, it’s good to have areas that are off-limits to harvesting, in urban settings especially; it often seems like Thunder Bay could use plenty more foliage still.
No better inspiration in this regard can be found than in The Man Who Planted Trees, the little literary masterpiece that appeared in the 1950s by the French author, Jean Giono.
In 1987, the CBC and the National Film Board teamed up to produce an award-winning animated film based on Giono’s book. It tells the story of a sheep farmer in the south of France who, after experiencing a devastating personal loss, commits the remainder of his life to single-handedly creating a flourishing forest where there was only barren land before. Famed Canadian actor Christopher Plummer provides the superb narration.
The film is so well done, one comes away wishing the story is true. It’s not, but it’s a nice thing to think about on a summer’s day with an ice-cream cone — under a tree, of course.