Scars in Ottawa tree canopy begin to fill in as city plants 6,000 saplings

The scars in Ottawa's tree canopy, cut by a powerful derecho windstorm that killed twelve people in Ontario and Quebec, are beginning to fill in.

More trees expected to be planted across the city in 2023, when clearer picture of canopy loss is expected

A man plants a tree.
A worker with Brinkman Reforestation Ltd. plants a sapling in the ground at Hazeldean Woods in Kanata on Nov. 1, 2022. A large swath of the woodlot was stripped of all trees and mulched with forestry equipment after a storm in May toppled many of them. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

The scars in Ottawa's tree canopy, cut by a powerful derecho windstorm that killed twelve people in Ontario and Quebec, are beginning to fill in.

About 6,000 young trees at about knee height have been planted at the city's behest in the last two weeks at five sites particularly ravaged by the storm. (Trees are planted twice a year in Ottawa: spring and fall.)

While trees are expected to sprout up on their own from seeds in the ground, planting some trees now "will provide an overstory to lessen the movement of invasive species into these areas," and bring in desirable species "at a much quicker rate," wrote Tracey-Lee Schwets, who works in forest management for the city, in an emailed statement.

The reforestation work began in a large tract of Hazeldean Woods in Kanata. It was stripped of all trees and mulched by forestry crews after a great number of them were toppled on May 21.

A large clearing in a forest.
Most of the 6,000 small trees planted on city land ended up in this large clear-cut area in Hazeldean Woods. It will take decades and decades before the woodland looks as it once did. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

Across the city that day, winds consistent with EF0, EF1 and EF2 tornadoes snapped and uprooted thousands upon thousands of trees. A clearer picture of the damage to Ottawa's tree canopy will emerge after a major assessment that coincidentally began in the summer, just weeks after the storm.

Most of the saplings — 3,500 — were planted in Hazeldean Woods, with another 1,300 in nearby Deevy Pines Park. Also in west Ottawa, the JJ Clarke and Brian Parsons parks were planted with 275 and 75 trees, respectively.

Windsor Park near the Ottawa airport got 850 trees.

A total of 17 native species are represented, including sugar maple, balsam fir, red maple, white spruce and red oak, Schwets said.

Brinkman Reforestation Ltd. did the planting and sourced the trees. The company's southern Ontario regional manager, Mike Hayes, said all the trees are now in the ground and that organic, non-toxic pest control is set to be applied to the saplings a second time next week, which will complete the work.

Recently planted saplings.
The saplings are helped out with a mat to discourage other plants from competing with them for space and light, as well as a little fertilizer and applications of non-toxic, organic pest control. (Kristy Nease/CBC)

More work on the way

In a memo to council in early October, the city said plans are in motion for more reforestation work throughout the capital next year.

Trees are big business for the city. 

The forestry services department spent more than $19 million in 2021, performing work like inspecting and pruning city-owned trees, planting new ones on city property and more.

That year the city also awarded contracts worth more than $9 million to six companies to supply and deliver trees and shrubs, plant them, remove stumps, water trees and treat ash trees for emerald ash borer.

In September, the city announced that the derecho was expected to cost an estimated $50 million by the end of the year.

A man in a reflective vest plants a small tree.
More sites where trees were lost in the derecho are expected to be planted next year, according to the city. (Kristy Nease/CBC)


Kristy Nease


CBC Ottawa reporter Kristy Nease (she/her) has covered news in the capital for nearly 15 years, and previously worked at the Ottawa Citizen. She is particularly interested in long reads on climate, intimate partner violence and the courts. Get in touch: