Getting Street Trees where they are needed the most.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Street Trees in City Hall

2016's Street Tree Project coordinator Hannah Walters-Vida gave a report to the city of Hamilton's Public Works committee October 31, 2016, reporting on the successful outreach that garnered 62 new street trees in a section of ward three.

You can view her slides and watch a video of her presentation on our Facebook page. 

Over the past four summers, we have added over 200 street tree requests in neighbourhoods with higher than average mortality rates due to air pollution. The free street trees will contribute to improved air quality for generations to come.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the project in one way or another over the years.

Friday, September 30, 2016


September 30, 2016, Hamilton, Ontario


After an eight-week campaign, OPIRG McMaster Street Tree Project arranged for 62 homes in Hamilton’s east end to get free street trees planted in their front yards.

This year’s project was coordinated by McMaster undergraduate student Hannah Walters-Vida and focused on parts of Hamilton’s Gibson, Landsdale, and Stipley neighbourhoods.
Spaces for more street trees

Walters-Vida will present the results to the Public Works Committee at Hamilton City Hall council chambers on MONDAY, OCTOBER 3 at 1:30pm

Lower-income areas of Hamilton suffer from poorer air quality and less urban canopy than other parts of the city. Through a door-to-door campaign, the OPIRG Street Tree Project works in coordination with the city of Hamilton’s existing free street tree-planting program to encourage people in these areas to request trees for their properties.

Residents chose to request trees mainly for the aesthetic and environmental benefits that they provide.

“By talking directly with residents, we’ve been able to get results,” says Walters-Vida, results that account for an average increase equal to 20 years of tree requests in a span of two months. 
“There are small things we can and should do to improve living conditions in the most disadvantaged parts of Hamilton. Street trees are a simple and attainable step in the right direction.”


2016 Street Tree Project Final Report
Street Tree Project Page

OPIRG (Ontario Public Interest Research Group) McMaster is a student funded not-for-profit with an environmental and social justice mission. OPIRG has been supporting the Street Tree Project since 2013.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Trees and Crime

A little while ago, we posted about a research project in Portland, Oregon that was developing heat island maps to identify and display trouble spots in the city. Now we have yet another piece of interesting research coming from Portland. A 2012 study conducted by Geoffrey H. Donovan and Jeffrey P. Prestemon examined whether the presence of trees on a house’s front lot has an effect on crime in the city.

Donovan and Prestemon used reports from the Portland Police Bureau from 2005 to 2007, looking at the occurrences of seven different types of crime. A total of 2813 family homes were studied, with 431 having experienced some sort of crime.

It was found that trees on the road allowance of a property are associated with a decrease in crime. Donovan and Prestemon suggest multiple possible explanations for this. For example trees can signal to criminals that a neighbourhood is well taken care of, so a criminal would be more likely to be caught.

It was also found that the further away a tree is from the house, the more likely it is to decrease crime. This is a point in favour of street trees, which are planted on the road allowance close to the sidewalk.

However, there was also some evidence to suggest that a greater number of smaller trees on a property increase crime. This could be because they provide cover for criminals and block neighbours’ views of the house. However, homeowners can alleviate this risk by keeping trees pruned and being careful about the location of trees.

Since this is an observational study, we can’t be sure that the trees were the cause of the crime occurrences. In addition, the correlations found were relatively small. However, it’s an interesting prospect, and worth looking at in Hamilton.

Check out the full study at for more information!

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

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

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!