Getting Street Trees where they are needed the most.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tree Talk at City Hall

OPIRG McMaster's summer student Jonathan Valencia volunteered to present to the Public Works Committee at City Hall this morning about our pilot project in the Keith Neighbourhood.

It was easy to impress them with our project: in an area with an identified air quality problem that would normally get three street tree requests a year, by going door to door Jonathan was able to get 75 requests! While not every property meets the minimum space requirement, still, 53 trees will be planted this fall. Not only will the neighbourhood look better, but air quality will be improved, along with other tree-positive benefits such as cooling shade, water retention, and soil protection.

OPIRG McMaster plans to continue and expand the project next summer, so that more neighbourhoods can benefit from the street tree program offered by the city.

OPIRG students making the world a better place one street at a time!

Look for articles in the Hamilton Spectator, online at CBC Hamilton and on Joey Coleman's Livestream video site. (Links will be added as the material is available)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On the Map with Climate Change Action

OPIRG's summer street tree project shows up on the Centre for Climate Change interactive climate actions map! - love collaboration and positive inputs.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

More Tree Media

One tree, one property at a time: Jonathan Valencia signing up another street tree
for Keith neighbourhood.
The McMaster University student paper the Silhouette picked up the Street Tree story in a well written article available online here:

The "Small is Beautiful" mystique was invoked in relation to a few local projects (including ours) in an editorial in the same issue of "The Sil":
"if we make room in our lives for the little things...and make room for them successfully, then inspiration, determination and a collective desire to start tackling the big things will follow."
We couldn't agree more, thanks to the Sil's Jemma Wolfe for the astute observation!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


A couple hours on Keith Street tonight yields 5 more trees (with a couple more possible) - riding home I did notice some nasty odours in the air, almost like paint thinner, and pretty strong too. Not sure if it is a coincidence or not, but when I got home I see there is a smog advisory in Ontario and Hamilton is having some of the worst air:

Obviously, a few more trees here and there aren't going to scrub the air clean, but a lot more trees will contribute to better air quality overall. 

Thank you to all the residents in Keith who have signed up for a street tree - you are laying the foundation for a better neighbourhood!

Last Push in Keith!

Tonight is the last door to door - just a few more houses to go. I will leave brochures for anyone not at home. Let's go out in style with some more trees for the street.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Free Tree Press

Hamilton Spectator, June 23, 2013 Page A3

A group of McMaster students who decided to steer the city's Street Tree Program toward the Keith neighbourhood couldn't be happier with the results.

So far, 35 Keith residents have ordered 43 trees to be planted on their properties by city staff in September, free of charge.

"A lot of people were very receptive and we got a lot of positive feedback," said Jonathan Valencia, air quality co-ordinator for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at McMaster.

OPIRG decided to use the city's existing program, which offers free trees to homeowners, to start a pilot project to focus on an area they felt could really benefit from the planting of more trees.

After reading a study by Dr. Denis Corr for Clean Air Hamilton, Randy Kay noticed Keith showing really high readings for air pollutants.

"Keith was perfect for a trial because in a sense it's a small geographic area — there's not a lot of houses, and the Social Planning and Research Council did a study on the Code Red neighbourhoods and 70 per cent of people own their homes here," said Kay, who is OPIRG's co-ordinator of volunteers.

This made a door to door canvas an effective way to talk to residents. Valencia led a team of volunteers and covered every street in the neighbourhood, which is centred around Wentworth Street North between the CN rail tracks and the harbour, with the hope of getting the residents keen on trees while letting them know about the program and its benefits.

About 300 doors later, homeowners who hadn't known about the program are now taking advantage of the opportunity.

Keith resident Cathy Larocque thinks it's an excellent program.

"I got one for health reasons and to filter out the air, and they maintain it for me," she said.

Michelle Chesbro said residents in the area have worked hard over the past few years on cleaning it up. She plans to spread the word about the program.

"Trees are great, not only are they pretty, they help to clean the air," said Chesbro.

Last year, the city planted 5,800 trees under the program. How it works is residents contact the city to request a tree, and staff visit the proposed site to determine if there is enough space.

"It's a little investment for a long-term payoff," Kay said.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Public Works


(Membership 9/Quorum 5) 

L. Ferguson – Chair
T. Whitehead – Vice-Chair
 C. Collins
S. Duvall
T. Jackson
B. McHattie
S. Merulla
R. Pasuta
R. Powers

We will be seeing some or all of these councillors in September at the Public Works Committee when we present our recommendations regarding the city's street tree program. Jonathan is pulling together his research to present, and we hope the committee supports our goal of making Hamilton a greener, cleaner and safer city for all residents!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Final Push!

Following some very successful weeks in the Keith Neighbourhood, it's time to wrap things up! A total of 45 trees have been signed up for in Keith Neighbourhood, with an additional 13 trees being asked for in the surrounding area.  

Today is the last day I will be going door-to-door...I have left Keith Street untouched because I wanted to have enough experience before I tackled the street with the least amount of trees in this area. The day has come, and hopefully my previous success will aid me in getting a few more trees planted here today!

Here's the link of the map showing the tree sign up progress thus far:,-79.83902&spn=0.031563,0.0739

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Unequal Trees?

Can we see income disparity from space? It seems we can. This article explains the concept:

Here are some google map images of our beloved Hamilton Ontario: can you see what we mean?

BBQ Street Trees

Hot, but fun time at the Keith Neighbourhood BBQ today: more people signed up for free street trees! No shade trees in the vicinity of our table though...

Going to a Barbecue!

View Street Tree Project in a larger map 

 OPIRG McMaster's Street Tree Project will have a table at today's Community BBQ in the Keith Neighbourhood in the park across the road from the Eva Rothwell Centre on Wentworth Street North. Food and displays!

We are hoping to sign up a few more people from the neighbourhood who will join other residents in getting a free street tree from the city in the fall.

Drop by and say hello to Jonathan (Johnny) Valencia, OPIRG's summer student in charge of the project.

Click on the map link above for directions from McMaster on the bus.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"One mighty flowering tree..."

“And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father.” – Black Elk

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Amur Maple

After this weekend, we have signed up quite a large number of people which gives me the opportunity to do a little analysis on the most popular trees. The Amur Maple is the most wanted tree, being chosen a total of 12 times. However, the Eastern Redbud is not far behind with 11 picks. 

The Amur Maple is a small tree, growing between 5-8 meters in height. It has a wonderful bright red colour during the fall, and it is for that reason that many have picked this gorgeous tree! You would be amazed to know that this specie is not native to Canada, or North America for that matter. It's actually native to Japan and northeast China, only to be introduced to North America in the 1860s. Here's a picture of the Amur Maple in the fall:

With a few streets yet to service, the popularity contest between the Amur Maple and the Eastern Redbud will soon have a clear winner...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Door to Door Day

The Street Tree project was helped today by students from nearby St. Ann's Catholic Elementary school who went door to door to sign people up for street trees. Alex Ramirez of the OPIRG Board of Directors was there assisting students with the project on behalf of his OPIRG McMaster working group Hamilton Student Community Initiative.
After a few mentoring opportunities with our Project Leader Johnny, the students successfully managed to get several new people signed up for trees on Burton Street.

Johnny also provided the volunteers with snacks, sandwiches and cold drinks. In a short time we had 10 more trees to add to the dozens already requested, and we still have more streets to attend to!

Thank you to Alex and the team from St. Ann's!

If you are interested in volunteering with this project, please contact or 905-525-9140 ext. 26026.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Impetus

This project began with a realization or synthesis of a few elements:
1. Denis Corr's mobile air monitoring showing some neighbourhoods had air pollution issues measurably worse than others
2. There is some evidence that less-well-to-do areas have less urban forest canopy than financially more-wealthy neighbourhoods
3. Trees can improve air quality
4. The City of Hamilton has a free street tree program

The primary goal is to target the street tree program to areas most in need of a refreshed urban forest canopy. So basically, more trees where they are needed most.

Happily, the response from residents in the Keith neighbourhood has been overwhelmingly positive. Meeting so many people here has been fun and rewarding. Coming from McMaster, we are getting a first hand look at what a well-organized community HUB there is here, and how friendly and welcoming the people are.

What started as a bit of an abstract idea has definitely come to a much more human, face-to-face experience that is teaching us the depth of resiliency Hamilton has at the grassroots. For that we are most grateful to the people of the Keith Neighbourhood!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Word's Getting Out

Happy to make an appearance in the community newspaper North End Breezes! Thanks to the editor for including an article about the Street Tree Project on page 9 (see link below).

You can download a pdf of the paper here:

Johnny signing people up for street trees on Wentworth Street Tuesday afternoon

For clarification, J. Valencia (that's our Johnny, OPIRG McMaster's student project staff) is not part of nor representing "Mobile Monitoring, an Air Quality Monitoring Project Wentworth North/Eva Rothwell Centre Area" He's representing the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) McMaster, we're proud to say!

Mapping Progress

View Street Tree Project in a larger map

Project staffer Johnny is keeping track of the street tree requests we've collected in the Keith Neighbourhood on a google map. This is a work in progress with two big pushes coming in the next couple weeks to collect more locations to make the neighbourhood a lot greener. More on this subject later!

Shrubbing the Air?

Our project is focused on residential but there are lots of opportunities for local commercial industries to get with the greening going on in the neighbourhood. A shout out to Denningers for the shrubs along the sides of their warehouse at Brant and Hillyard. Sure, trees provide shade and other benefits, but shrubs also provide benefits to improve air quality and aesthetics. Going Green can take many forms!

If you live in the Keith Neighbourhood and want a free street tree for your front yard, get in touch with us, we can help you get it done! 905-525-9140 ext. 26026 or e-mail Johnny Valencia at 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

12 New Trees!

Like I said in my previous post, I went door-to-door Sunday evening to the "outskirts" of the Keith neighbourhood to see how many people were willing to participate. After 3-4 hours of walking and chatting with thee residents, I was able to get 12 new trees ordered for this area! 

Seeing as the goal was 25 trees and I have yet to go down the longest street (Niagara St.) in the area, plus I have to go back to a few homes who wanted to talk it over and have some time to decide, as well as missing some people who were not home when I was knocking on doors; it seems pretty promising that the 25 tree goal will be reached!

Stay tuned for what happens when I go back for round 2!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

And so it begins...

With all the planning almost completed, it was time to get a feel for how people would respond to being asked to take part in our project by signing up for a free street tree.

I decided to go to a few houses (~8) to see what would happen... to my surprise and satisfaction, the residents to which I offered the service to were very willing to sign up for a tree! Three people immediately signed up, while the others said yes but wanted to check with their spouses who were not home at the moment. I will be going back on Saturday or Sunday when people will most likely be home and see if I can get at least another 25 people signed up for free street trees!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Toronto Trees Story

"It’s no coincidence then that neighbourhoods with the most trees are those with the highest property values. Keeping in mind that half the urban area is either paved over or covered with buildings, it’s no surprise trees make a street, district, or indeed, an entire city, highly desirable."

Street Tree planted in Keith Neighbourhood in 2012 - investing in future tree canopy!

Read the full story about Toronto's urban tree canopy at the Toronto Star

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Pieces Are Beginning to Come Together!

Over the last couple of weeks Randy and I (Johnny) have been setting up meetings with key players. So far we have met with Laura Ryan who was a treat to talk to! She provided a lot of insight on the neighbourhood and helped solve some potential setbacks we might have had if it wasn't for her. Laura also had a great idea to set up a table outside the Eva Rothwell Centre to attract some attention and get people signed up for free street trees!

The other important meeting was with Bill Longley, who is one of the coordinators for Hamilton's Urban Forestry. He gave us some tips on how to reach more people and how to address some of the issues we may run into. Most importantly, he extended our deadline to hand in street tree forms from June 15th to June 30th which gives us a larger window of time to reach many more residents!

Here is the plan so far:
-putting up a poster at the Eva Rothwell Centre to advertise our cause
-setting up a table outside the Eva Rothwell Centre next week and following weeks to get some people signed up for street trees
-on June 8th, go door to door with 6 volunteers and get people signed up! The volunteers will write down objections they encounter and I will go back later and address the objection in a friendly manner to hopefully change their mind
-attend the community BBQ on June 22nd, set up a table and soak up the sun as we make one last effort to get as many people signed up for street trees!

The pieces are finally coming together and through this action plan I don't see why we can't get at least 100 trees planted!

Just Announcing: This Place is Amazing!

The Eva Rothwell Resource Centre is an amazing hub of neighbourhood activity. Having a place like this situated in the community creates a centre of energy and support. We encourage you to investigate the history of the centre, located in the former Robert Land School:

From their web site:
Today, the Eva Rothwell Centre is home to a ever-growing number of programs and services that are helping to improve the quality of life and enhance social wellbeing for an entire North Hamilton neighbourhood and some of the city’s best kids.
OPIRG McMaster's Street Tree Project leader Jonathan Valencia will be setting up a display at the building to encourage people to get their free street tree orders in before the summer deadline.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Great Things Growing!

We are quickly learning about the great things going on in the Keith Neighbourhood, like community gardens! We enjoyed running into Jen who told us a lot about what was growing in both her vegetable garden, and her front yard flower garden down the street.

The sense of community is palpable here, and we are honoured to be able to take part in the ongoing revival of this neighbourhood.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Street Scenes in Keith

We took a sunny walk through the Keith Neighbourhood recently and met some great people out enjoying the spring weather! We were impressed with the neighbourliness of the people we chatted with, who obviously are open to receiving visitors. We got a chance to run our idea of getting more street trees into the area, and learned a lot from the feedback!

 Some streets have lost street trees over the years to age, and there is plenty of room for a new generation of street trees to bring more beauty and cleaner air to the region.

Some streets have a fairly decent supply of street trees, but there's always room for more, and with a range of free trees to choose from, ranging in size from small to large, there's something for everyone!

We'll update this blog as we go, we hope you consider following us as we learn and grow with the fine residents of Keith in Ward 3, Hamilton!