Winnipeg must double arboreal budget in order to reach mayor's million-tree goal
The city could plant as many as 20 times more trees with an extra $2M annual cash infusion: report
City parks managers say it will take another $2 million every year to fulfill Mayor Brian Bowman's promise of planting a million trees in Winnipeg by 2040.
But that would provide a lot of bang for the city's buck, as the city would only need to double its annual tree-planting budget to see as many as 20 times more trees added every year to the urban forest.
In a report to city council, parks and open spaces manager Dave Domke says the city, volunteers and corporate donors will have to ramp up their collective tree-planting capacity to put 50,000 new trees in the ground every year.
This can't be done by the city alone, which currently spends an average of $2.1 million annually to plant 2,500 to 2,750 trees every year, according to budget documents.
It will take slightly more than $2 million a year — or $43 million over 20 years — in additional funding to help volunteers and donors assist with the task, Domke writes.
"The city does not currently have the capacity or resources to plant 50,000 trees per year," he writes. "Building this capacity will take up to five years and will involve establishing agreements with stakeholders, arranging for nurseries to establish their supply and determining how to best educate and engage the public."
Bowman initially challenged Winnipeg to plant a million trees in September, when he cited the need to mitigate the ongoing loss of ash trees to the emerald ash borer, elm trees to Dutch elm disease and other threats to Winnipeg's urban forest.
Weeks later, an October snowstorm badly damaged tens of thousands of city trees. The city's new tree-planting goal is over and above the work it faces to replace damaged trees, Bowman said in October.
Tree sponsors commit
To date, two corporate sponsors have committed cash to the cause. Canadian National, the railway company, committed $1 million, while payroll company Telplay pledged $250,000.
The cost of planting a single tree varies in terms of size, species and location. Planting costs anywhere from $5 for a seedling to $750 for a mature tree, Domke said in October.
Public education will be required to ensure at least three quarters of the newly planted trees survive, Domke writes.
"In most cases, seedlings are not appropriate and wouldn't survive in the environment," he writes.
He also suggests new trees that grow from seeds or suckers along the edge of existing urban forests should be counted toward the million-tree goal.
Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry Coun. Sherri Rollins, who chairs council's protection, community services and parks committee, said she is confident the city can meet the goal, which effectively relies on donors and volunteers to take the annual tree-planting tally from 2,500 a year to 50,000.
"This is people-powered magic," she said in an interview. "There is a lot of enthusiasm for trees and people who want to plant trees."