A tree-loving sentimentalist to the core I felt that the towering silver maple measuring 109 cm in diameter wanted me to speak for it. I am quite sure my neighbour will not be happy with me.
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Too many trees have been lost in my neighbourhood. Prior to a tree protection bylaw being in place, the property that abuts my backyard was clear-cut entirely of all mature trees to make way for a new home. At the end of this blog you can read a description of what was lost at that time, October 1994.
An established area where builders are eager to replace older homes with new mansions, tree removal has occurred like never before in our area, an historic portion of C. D. Farquharson Community, west of Brimley between Sheppard Avenue and Hwy 401. A heritage farmhouse with a significant stand of trees is located here. The farm was subdivided to create our community. All the original homes were part of Toronto’s early suburbs of the early 1950s. But the trees in many cases existed long before that as part of the then-rural setting.
As well as the highway, our neighbourhood abuts a long-time industry, the largest wax refinery in the world. Toronto Environmental Alliance has in the past flagged air quality concerns here and our ward (41) was picked for a city air quality study in 2015. We need our mature trees to help clean the air, especially with the loss of 20 per cent of the city’s tree canopy during the ice storm of 2013.
A remnant woodlot in a city park, itself greatly reduced over the years to provide for a soccer field, offers a glimpse of a trace of what used to be in days gone by: several majestic oaks among the most prized sightings. A favoured option in a provincial government proposal to widen Highway 401 calls for expropriating a strip of that forest and parts of seven residential back yards, equalling the loss of more trees and green space while putting our community even closer to the highway, its noise and fumes.
To the west of us at Kennedy and Highway 401 a very dense, new wall of five, eventually six, condominium towers and a drastically altered view has made me value the existence of our trees even more. They provide a visual screen and purify the air as high rise developments are identified as the second largest contributor to CO2 emissions next to motor vehicles. *
Every tree counts for something in this environment. The replacement cedars one sees in modern landscaping will never replace the beauty, form or function of a mature, healthy tree.
I have concerns about the destruction of bird habitats as well.
* Source: GLOBE-Net, July 7, 2015, “Ontario feels the heat – Gap looms in climate change fight”
Comments from acting Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Ellen Schwartzel:
“... We need a more ambitious suite of actions to get us to our 2020 target, focused especially on reducing emissions from cars and trucks. And each time a new high-rise tower goes up, we should be reminded that buildings account for the next biggest increase in megatonnes of CO2.” Article
Trees that are lost can never be reclaimed
Roof-high cedars hug the house on one side in the front yard, and a Kentucky blue spruce, planted as a two-footer and just eight years ago, now stands at least fifteen feet high between street and house. Its leader was broken early on by a neighbour child who loved to climb the tree. With great care Karl grafted a side branch on to the damaged tip and the tree has grown strong and straight ever since. Also in the front is a sturdy Crimson King maple with the last vestiges of yellow-brown leaves dotting the ground around and clinging to a few bare branches. The 20-foot mountain ash rounds out the trees found in the front. Its skyward-reaching branches form a kind of oval skeleton now that its leaves are gone. The crop of colourful, red berries, though bitter, are welcomed by birds when all other food sources have been exhausted.
On the south side of the house is a “weeping” or trailing willow of shrub size. It was carefully planted by their daughter as a Mother’s Day gift several years ago.
As mentioned, the backyard offers excellent bird-watching opportunities. There are six giant black pines on the property with the familiar long-needled branches of dark green – light green in spring when new growth appears. They provide protected branches on which the birds land. Many, such as blue jays and cardinals, visit throughout the year, and as we looked out, “Felix” the friendly pileated woodpecker flew into one of the pines. One winter day several years ago Eva was amazed to see what she believes was a peregrine falcon devouring the last of a small animal on the property. Its talons were the size of the fingers of a human hand. It shortly flew off, carrying with it a large ball of suet Eva had set out for the small birds. Two gray squirrels live in the yard and several black squirrels are frequent visitors. Eva has seen ring-necked pheasant often, and raccoons. A lizard and a skunk consider the yard their own.
Other trees found in the back yard are a sugar maple with bright red fall leaves, a large Manitoba maple whose branches have been broken many times in windstorms but still sturdily standing, 10-foot high French lilacs which give off their perfume every spring, and a European linden whose blossoms provide a pleasant woodsy fragrance when used as sachets and room fresheners. A weathered, well-used wooden bird feeder leans at an angle near the window. It has fed hundreds of wild birds over the years and is the source of much viewing pleasure at the Herzberger home.
One of the nice things about living in an area such as ours is to experience the sense of serenity a setting such as the Herzbergers’ home provides. Year-round natural beauty and a constantly changing panorama of birds and other small creatures make it a joy to return to and visit.
--Mary Jo Turner, “Treading the Farquharson Forest IX”
C. D. Farquharson Community Newsletter, November 1988
(Describes the Scarborough property directly behind mine - before it was destroyed one Sunday in 1994 in the absence of tree protection legislation. It was a hugely heartbreaking event in my life.)