sTREEts

Getting Street Trees where they are needed the most. An OPIRG McMaster summer neighbourhood project.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Where are trees most needed?

How do we determine what areas are most in need of trees? McMaster Geography student Geoff Rose has come up with a method.

Given amounts of green space, pollution, income levels, number of parents, heat, and average road distance, 11 Hamilton neighbourhoods were ranked according to need. The study created a priority list of neigbourhoods in need of tree canopy development.

The Gibson and South Sherman neighbourhoods were ranked 2 and 7 on the priority list, respectively.

The Street Tree Project is currently focusing on both of these neighbourhoods. The Keith and Crown Point neighbourhoods were targets of the Street Tree Project in past years, and also made the list. The research gives us a good idea of neighbourhoods to focus on in the future.


Check out the infographic for more information!


Friday, June 10, 2016

100 in 1 Day

On June 4, the Street Tree Project had the chance to organize an urban intervention through 100 in 1 Day. The event, called "Paint your City Green" encouraged passerby to decorate a paper cutout of a tree, which was then attached to a large poster depicting a neighbourhood.

The purpose of the urban intervention was to spark discussion about the importance of trees and encourage people to imagine a greener Hamilton. Each person that adds a tree to the street does something small, but the combined weight of all the trees has a major impact.
The poster: before
The day of the event, we set out a tarp with a variety of art supplies including paints, stickers, and glitter. We also had the large neighbourhood poster stuck to a nearby picnic table.

The 100 in 1 Day event started off slowly. At first, only a few people trickled in to participate. It was beginning to look like we would not have enough participants to make the event a success.

However, a couple hours in, kids playing at the nearby playground began to take an interest in the event. Groups of children came by to decorate trees, which drew even more of a crowd. Eventually, we had so much interest that there wasn't enough room on the poster to stick all the trees!

Painting the poster
While painting, we also had the chance to speak to community members about the importance of trees in the city. A number of people told us how much they would love to have more trees in their neighbourhoods, simply because trees make neighbourhoods feel nicer. Some people fondly recalled their childhoods in more rural areas, where they were surrounded by trees. The small canopy in their Hamilton neighbourhoods is sad for them to see. We had discussions about air quality, health, and the environment, each time ultimately coming to the conclusion that we need more trees!

So if we are so keen to imagine a greener city, what stops us from implementing it? Many of the participants in 100 in 1 Day did not own their property, which meant that they did not want to place a tree request for their home. While the Street Tree Project is happy to contact landlords directly, it is understandable that not everybody is comfortable giving us their landlords' information.

Small lawns another common reason for choosing not to request a tree. While we do offer a number of small tree choices, some properties are unfortunately just too small.

That being said, there are many people in the neighbourhood who can easily request a tree and make a huge difference in their community. By going canvassing throughout this month, we hope to find these people and encourage them to request a tree!

Some of the participants after the day of painting

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

First Thoughts on the Area

Last week, we had our first visit to the neighbourhoods where we will be canvassing. It was great to get a sense of the area and interact with some of the residents. The area spans from Wellington to Gage, and from the railway tracks North of Barton to Cannon. The shaded section of this map gives a more detailed idea of the area of focus.

Lots of potential sites along Sanford Ave!
The houses along Wellington had pretty small yards for the most part, but there were some possible sites for street trees. The houses face a pretty busy road, and the area could definitely benefit from more trees. Many other homes in the area had small yards, but some of the smaller tree options will be a nice fit. The houses along Victoria Street tended to have more trees out front, but the area could still use more. The urban canopy from the existing trees definitely made the area nicer.

Traveling further east towards Gage, the area became quite a bit more industrial. There were a number of factories and empty lots, which got us thinking about the vast potential for street trees in these areas. It was interesting to note that as we moved into the more industrial areas, homes tended to have fewer trees out front. With the help of the Street Tree Project, this pattern can change and lead to nicer-looking neighbourhoods with better air quality.

After refuelling at 541 Eatery
While in the area, we got the chance to stop off at 541 Barton Eatery. The café has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere and offers a menu of delicious, reasonably priced food and drinks (personally, I can vouch for the coffee). I look forward to spending a lot more time there while canvassing in the
area.

While surveying the area, we came across some neighbours and discussed the project with them. We
were met with a range of responses. There were some people who were strongly opposed to the idea of a tree on their property. Around Clinton and Sherman, it became clear that a recent bad experience with a tree made people ambivalent to request their own. A large tree in the area had to be removed recently, supposedly because it had interfered with the sewers. We explained to the neighbours that smaller trees tend not to pose as much of a problem for underground systems, since their roots do not reach as far down. Additionally, trees do not cause damage unless there is a problem with the piping to begin with. More information about these misconceptions can be found here. Hopefully this unfortunate incident doesn’t make people too hesitant to get trees on their property.

Happy to see a Street Tree!
While there were some people who were strongly opposed to the idea of a tree, others simply seemed hesitant. Many had not considered the idea of getting a tree, and were taken by surprise. However, bringing up the idea of a tree beforehand is likely to make them more willing to consider a tree later on. As this article discusses, introducing people to unfamiliar ideas will make them more receptive to them in the future. Hopefully the Street Tree Project has the same experience!

Some neighbours were very interested in the project, and were happy to connect with us further. We shared contact information and will follow up, and are looking forward to meeting these people again when we canvas. We’re hoping to come across other people who share this attitude!

We came across a few houses that had requested trees from us in past years. It was encouraging to see the trees on their lawns already making the area more inviting. 


We are looking forward to spending lots of time in the area in the weeks to come, and are determined to make the area greener!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Call for Volunteers for the 2016 Summer Street Tree Project

The Street Tree Project is looking for summer volunteers to help with door-to-door canvassing to promote green space in Hamilton!

The Project
The OPIRG Street Tree Project aims to plant trees in areas of the city with poor air quality and minimal urban canopy. The city offers free trees to be planted on any property, but many people are unaware of this initiative. Now in its fourth year, the Street Tree Project uses door-to-door canvassing, events, and social media presence to encourage people to make requests for trees to be planted on their property.

This year, we will be focusing on the Landsdale, Gibson, and Stipley neighbourhoods of Hamilton. The project will last from mid May to early July.

Volunteer Responsibilities
  • Training: all volunteers must attend a training session prior to beginning any work.
  • Canvassing: volunteers will go door to door encouraging residents to place requests for trees on their property. Volunteers will be thoroughly trained and can expect to canvas in pairs.
  • Community events: volunteers are encouraged to join as at community events to raise awareness about the project.
  • Social media: there may be opportunities for volunteers to contribute to the project blog. 

There is no minimum time commitment for volunteers, but you are encouraged to come out as often as possible.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, or if you have any questions, please contact Hannah Walters-Vida at streettrees@opirgmcmaster.org.

Twitter: @TREEs4sTREEts




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hello from Hannah, the 2016 Street Tree Project Coordinator

My name is Hannah Walters-Vida, and I am very excited to take on the role of the 2016 Street Tree Project Coordinator.

I was born in Vancouver, but spent most of my life in Toronto. I came to Hamilton two years ago to pursue my degree in McMaster University’s Justice, Political Philosophy, and Law program. I have been really enjoying getting to explore the city’s dynamic urban life as well as its incredible natural areas.

Throughout my time at McMaster, I have become involved with OPIRG through my work with Fossil Free McMaster and as a volunteer with CVA’s Learning and Fun program. I am very passionate about environmental and social justice issues, and strongly believe in community engagement.


I look forward to working with members of the Hamilton community to create a greener city. This project has the potential to generate long-lasting improvements for the city’s environment and community, and I cannot wait to get started!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Strategy for Street Tree Success?

‘What we’ve learned by having real, in-depth conversations with people is that a broad swath of voters are actually open to changing their mind.’
Johnny talking trees to residents in Keith, 2013

"Existing research depicts intergroup prejudices as deeply ingrained, requiring intense intervention to lastingly reduce. Here, we show that a single approximately 10-minute conversation encouraging actively taking the perspective of others can markedly reduce prejudice for at least 3 months. We illustrate this potential with a door-to-door canvassing intervention in South Florida targeting antitransgender prejudice. Despite declines in homophobia, transphobia remains pervasive. For the intervention, 56 canvassers went door to door encouraging active perspective-taking with 501 voters at voters’ doorsteps. A randomized trial found that these conversations substantially reduced transphobia, with decreases greater than Americans’ average decrease in homophobia from 1998 to 2012. These effects persisted for 3 months, and both transgender and nontransgender canvassers were effective. The intervention also increased support for a nondiscrimination law, even after exposing voters to counterarguments." (Abstract from Science research paper)

Some interesting research into effective forms of communicating to win people over.

Read the full article in the New York Times

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Using trees to beat the heat: action in Portland Oregon.

From this interesting piece from the USA: http://theintertwine.org/blog/turning-down-heat-turning-green
New street tree in Keith neighbourhood,
Hamilton Ontario

"We’ve been working with a team for several years to develop heat island maps for Portland and its surrounding region. We’ve also worked with Dr. Linda George and her lab to study traffic-related air quality, and the impact of trees on that air quality."

"Right now we’re working on an interactive version of the map that will help policy makers and citizen groups drill down on specific Portland streets and neighborhoods to find trouble spots. Notable in our analysis is that trails and greenways factor prominently in reducing air pollution and mitigating urban heat. The more extensive tracts of greenery present in specific areas, the greater cleaning and cooling of the air."

OK peoples: we can do so much more to further the research about air quality, and keep adding more trees to do their part for cleaning the air.