jackson park

Does it ever occur to you that when you walk around in Peterborough, you’re in the middle of a forest?

Take a look past the buildings and concrete and you’ll discover that you’re surrounded by trees.

However, unlike a natural forest, an urban forest requires regular maintenance to stay healthy.

In Peterborough, much of the urban forestry activism and maintenance is managed by the non-profit organization GreenUP.

Their current urban forestry project is a book called Beneath the Canopy: Peterborough’s Urban Forest and Heritage Trees, which features a collection of photos, stories, historical information and essays from the local community.

The book is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and will be launched in just a few weeks, thanks to the hard work of staff and numerous volunteers.

The main author and coordinator of the book, Sheryl Loucks, said, “My hope is that readers will enjoy this book and that it will inspire them to take care of the amazing living historical giants we have and, equally important, to plant some more trees. The city is at a point where [many] of the big mature trees are not doing well and we need to plant the trees now to replace them.”

The launch of this book project comes at an important time, as Peterborough is preparing to defend its trees against the encroaching Emerald Ash Borer beetle.

Approximately 10 percent of Peterborough’s tree canopy is Ash, and if proper precautions are not taken, the city could lose that entire 10 percent.

So far, the Emerald Ash Borer has been responsible for the destruction of millions of trees in the United States and Southern Ontario.

emerald ash borer

Ash trees are an important native tree species that have historically been planted in woodlots and along fences and streets. It is common in Peterborough to see streets lined with Ash trees and nothing else.

Whole city blocks could lose their trees if the fight against the Emerald Ash Borer is not successful.

There is an estimated 7,500 Ash trees in Peterborough.

Unfortunately, the main method for preventing the spread of the Emerald Ash Borer is with the use of insecticides. This method mirrors the measures undertaken in the 1970’s when Dutch Elm Disease wreaked havoc across Southern Ontario.

Sadly, when dealing with monoculture, more environmentally friendly options are not very effective.

It’s not a matter of isolating an infected tree when every tree on the street is in such close proximity to the others.

The real lesson that ought to be learned from this encroaching crisis is one that unfortunately was not learned during the 1970’s Dutch Elm outbreak: planting an monoculture urban forest is not environmentally sustainable.

Tighter legislation needs to be created so urban forests can be properly created and managed.

Any forest in a natural setting is very diverse and urban forests ought to be the same. If not, we face losing our tree canopies time and time again as pests and disease can feast on numerous trees.

The people at GreenUP are hoping that Beneath the Canopy will spark a new appreciation of Peterborough’s urban forest.

“The result is more than a pretty book: it’s a glimpse at our city’s parks and neighbourhoods from a new perspective,” says Loucks.

The book can be purchased at the GreenUP Store (378 Aylmer St. North), Peterborough Art Gallery, Canadian Canoe Museum, Hutchison House, Trent Valley Archives and Fireside Gourmet Peterborough.

It can also be borrowed from the Peterborough Library.