City urges residents to take home trees

The area that is now Vancouver was originally a temperate rainforest, as the  “rain-ageddon” the city is experiencing this week attests, but the powers that be at city hall aren’t seeing enough forest in the modern day metropolis so are launching a program they hope will help create an urban forest.

TreeKeepers is a $215,000 city funded three-year initiative that offers Vancouver residents a tree of their own to take home and plant, for $10.

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The program, which started in 2013, is a partnership between the non-profit Tree City and the Environmental Youth Alliance, working with the city toward its Greenest City 2020 action plan — promoted as a goal to make Vancouver the most environmentally friendly city in the world.

“The main focus is to try to get private citizens to help us reach our goal of planting 150,000 trees by 2020,” said Vision Vancouver park board chairwoman Niki Sharma.

The eighteen types of trees offered this year include vine maple, fig, plum and apple.

“The city is itself working on adding more [trees] in streets and in parks and on unused city land, but they realize they can’t get there with just public property alone, they have to get private property involved as well,” said Tree City executive director Dave Tracey.

Most of the trees are sourced from Lower Mainland nurseries.

“Ecologically, we are one of the prime tree growing places on earth,” said Tracey, who is also an author of several books on the environment.

“The reason why, when Europeans first came here and were astounded to see all the things growing was because of this really fantastic climate we have that grew some of the tallest trees on the planet. So, that is all still favourable conditions for us,” he said.

Tracey said the program also just makes good financial sense.

“It costs a lot more for the city to plant a tree than it does for a private resident to buy a tree,” he said.

Trees can be ordered online at and will be available for pick up between March 29 and May 10 at 12 distribution centres around the city.

Trees will also be for sale at VanDusen Garden during Sakura Days, April 5 to 6. 

Sharma said the success of the program will be judged by how many trees are sold.

Last year, all 1000 trees available were picked up, this there are 4000 trees and Tracey said he has already sold out of some species such as the ginkgo biloba.

There is no way to know for sure if people actually go home and plant the trees, Sharma said.

Tracey said one other gauge of the program’s success will be how many people come out to workshops offered in June on how to care for an urban tree.

To lure the youngest green thumbs to the program there is a contest for Vancouver students. The school that had the most parents buy trees online by April 19 will win a wooden trophy and $500 for an earth friendly project of the school’s choice.

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