Urban forestry


It's a tree's life:
Kitchener's first draft sustainable urban forest strategy

Its hard to imagine a vibrant, caring and innovative city without picturing trees. To hear how trees improve our community and much more watch our short video:

Sustainable Urban Forest Strategy update:

Staff is requesting $235,000 in the 2019 operating budget to implement the first stage of the Sustainable Urban Forest Strategy. Watch the budget live on Monday, Jan. 14, 9:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m.: www.kitchener.ca/watchnow

Subject to council approval staff put forward the following:

Increase tree planting activities 
For several years the City has removed more trees than it has replaced annually. This has significantly been driven by the reaction to Emerald Ash Borer, but also reflects challenges within the urban forest canopy. These issues have led to a significant backlog of tree planting needs. To address this we will:
  • Implement an accelerated tree planting program to start to address the existing street tree backlog – more than doubling our current planting program to plant 2,000 – 2,500 trees over 3 years (Note: We will plant 500 trees in 2019).
  • Implement a partnership with external agencies to support private tree planting activities.
Outcomes: Aim to eliminate the existing tree planting backlog over 3 – 5 years; develop a sustainable tree planting program that seeks to address potential for future backlogs; develop canopy targets and plan to meet these through both City and private programs.

Identify and remove at risk trees 
Trees are found adjacent to private property, trails and roads, City buildings, in our parks, community centres and other facilities. Failure of part or all of a tree can be mitigated through routine programmed work and a cyclical inspection program. To address this we will:
  • Implement a priority risk based inspection process which will ensure all City trees are inspected to an agreed frequency.
  • Implement a priority based program of proactive work based on inspection that seeks to mitigate risk. 

Outcomes: Reduced potential for tree failure; over successive cycles reduced clean-up costs after storm events; reduced tree related risk to residents and tree related liability for the City.

Improve customer service

One of the top five issues from residents to the Corporate Contact Centre are related to tree planting and pruning. Ensuring a helpful and accurate response to residents is important. To address this we will:
  • Implement customer service standards and define service levels in respect to City response times to customer enquiries.
  • Proactively seek to inform customers and influence expectation through providing clear messaging around tree related matters.
Outcomes: Reduce customer based complaints, develop an understanding of City responsibilities for tree management, improve customer response times on urban forest matters and provide information and support proactively on urban forest initiatives.
Forest Operations Technologist 
The development of the strategy has demonstrated the need for an additional resource to be able to help implement the strategy and to help engage business improvements in forestry. In support and addition to the above, two areas of pressure have been identified: 
  • The need to better address and serve the customers of the forestry department, internal and external, by systematic prioritization of work programming.
  • A resource is required to better manage and implement operational programs and ensure data is captured and utilized in decision-making. The strategy has outlined where there are data gaps that need to be filled, and where there are uses of data that can support more effective service delivery. 

After an extensive community engagement and planning process, Kitchener’s first draft sustainable urban forest strategy and implementation plan is now being finalized and will be brought back for Council's consideration in early 2019. You can learn more about this work and Kitchener's urban forest by opening the resources tab below. To stay informed about this work you can subscribe to this webpage.  

Resources (Background Information)

  1. Kitchener’s Sustainable Urban Forest Strategy DRAFT This concise document provides you with the key information to quickly understand what the strategy is about, our vision for a sustainable urban forest, our goal, the five branches (Plan, Engage, Maintain, Protect, Plant) of a sustainable urban forest, and 15 identified actions.

  2. 2017 Kitchener’s Sustainable Urban Forest Report Card rates the city’s exiting forestry program using 28 targets that are recognized as key components of a sustainable urban forest program.  

  3. Developing a sustainable urban forest program background document explains why the city is doing this work, the benefits of the urban forest, provides an overview of the project,  key challenges and opportunities facing Kitchener's urban forest, and the next steps.

  4. Tree Canopy Report details Kitchener's tree canopy, based on analysis of 2014 imagery.

  5. Kitchener's online urban forest story map allows residents to discover the urban forest in their neighbourhood and learn more about the city's tree canopy.

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Concerns about city trees

If you have a concern or question about a city tree (e.g. low tree limbs, dead tree) please contact our Corporate Contact Centre at 519-741-2345 or info@kitchener.ca.

More information about trees

Structural Pruning

City of Kitchener's forestry staff conducts structural prunning on city trees to help them grow into heahty, mature trees. Structural pruning helps increase trees health, longevity and resiliency to climate change. 

What is structural pruning?
In forests, trees develop strong branch structure because they grow in close proximity to each other. The shade created by other trees suppresses growth of lower limbs. In the city, where there are a lot of single trees, the amount of sunlight encourages them to develop multiple, competing branches. This type of tree structure is vulnerable to breakage and can reduce the tree’s life expectancy. Trees with one dominant stem and well-spaced branches are more likely to thrive for a long time. 

Before structural pruning     After structural pruning 
Tree before structural pruning.               Tree after structural pruning.

The tree will have fewer branches and look less full after structural pruning is complete, but don’t be alarmed, this is part of the process. Pruning happens over a period of years and helps develop a strong, resilient branch structure.


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