City offers up 2,000 free trees for residents to grow Calgary's canopy

Under a low profile City of Calgary program, citizens can get up to three trees free of charge this year.

Northeast councillor questions if city's distribution plan is equitable

The City of Calgary is expanding its annual tree giveaway program called Branching Out. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Under a low-profile City of Calgary program, citizens can get up to three trees free of charge this year.

The city has offered its "Branching Out" program since 2019. But this year, the number of trees being given away is quadrupling.

Two thousand trees of various types are being offered up. The city is setting aside 500 trees for each of Calgary's four quadrants.

People interested in getting a tree have to complete an online module and then signal their interest by registering on a designated date.

The first sign-up date was Feb. 13 for residents in the northwest.

The supervisor for parks programs with the City of Calgary, Trina Vickery, said all 500 trees for the quadrant were snapped up in less than a day.

"It was extremely fast. I was shocked at how quickly the trees went," said Vickery.

Double the canopy

Vickery said the goal of the program is to expand the city's tree canopy. 

Currently, the city estimates about 8.25 per cent of the city has tree canopy coverage. But Vickery said their goal is to raise that number to 16 per cent by the year 2060.

Other than a webpage with information on the program, there isn't much advertising about the tree giveaways.

"Really, the program has been word of mouth. The only real advertising we did was that first pilot year, just to kind of let people know this is available. Please sign up for a tree," said Vickery.

The program costs about $90,000. A vendor in B.C. is supplying the city with 11 different types of trees for the giveaway.

Those who successfully register will be contacted this spring with details on when to pick up their tree at a nearby LRT or BRT station.

Vickery said their distribution plan is designed to give residents in all parts of the city an equal shot at getting a free tree.

Northeast needs equity, councillor says

Coun. Raj Dhaliwal said he supports the program but he's disappointed with the distribution plan.

"It's equality but it's not equity. And my focus is equity," said Dhaliwal.

He said areas in the city's northeast, like Ward 5, which he represents, have fewer trees than other parts of Calgary.

"On the northeast, east side, southeast, we can clearly see — and this is the city data — that urban tree canopy is way, way behind the rest of the city."

Coun. Raj Dhaliwal says the distribution of trees through the Branching Out program is equal, but not equitable. (Frizology Inc.)

The councillor said in his ward, trees are badly needed.

"In Saddleridge, which got the lowest of all communities, it's 1.27 per cent. Taradale is the highest in Ward 5, at 2.67 per cent," said Dhaliwal.

"I would have loved to see them target those areas that are deficient and where we need to increase the tree canopy."

The remaining upcoming dates for online registrations under the Branching Out program are as follows:

  • Southwest Calgary: Feb. 28
  • Southeast Calgary: Mar. 15
  • Northeast Calgary: Mar. 30

More information about the program can be found on the city's website.


Scott Dippel

Politics Reporter

Scott Dippel has worked for CBC News in a number of roles in several provinces. He's been a legislative reporter, a news reader, an assignment editor and a national reporter. When not at Calgary's city hall, it's still all politics, all the time.