In commemoration of National Tree Day, several environmental advocacy groups have come together to free four large honey locust trees in the Junction from their pavement prison earlier this week.

Representatives from LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) and partners, including Green Communities Canada, the Junction Business Improvement Area (BIA), Parkdale-High Park Councillor Sarah Doucette and local landscaping company Green Gardeners set out to remove encroaching paving stones, rows of interlocking brick and gravel from around the trees’ trunks before replacing them with soil and native strawberry plants, on Wednesday, Sept. 26. Their efforts were part of an initiative called ‘Depave Paradise,’ which the Junction and five other communities in Ontario have embarked on.

“We’ve been able to create a lot more space,” said Jessica Piskorowski, education and stewardship co-ordinator at LEAF, on Pacific Avenue, just south of Dundas Street West along the boulevard of the No Frills grocery store. “This will allow the trees’ roots to extend, preventing physical damage.”

Piskorowski said street trees play an important role in people’s lives; by beautifying neighbourhoods, providing shade and soaking up rain water and keeping it out of storm drains.

The Junction BIA is pleased to be partnering with LEAF for this project, said its executive director Kristina Skindelyte.

“Thank you to LEAF for bringing this project to our attention,” she said. “We’re hoping that this is a longtime partnership. The BIA cares tremendously about beautifying our streetscape. The businesses care about trees – they provide shade while attract more shoppers and more frequent shopping visits. This is a beautiful example of how the community came together.”

The BIA has pledged its support in way of keeping the strawberry plants watered regularly. The councillor credited city officials for moving quickly on this project, granting permission to take apart the boulevard.

Andrew Roy of The Green Gardener has committed to finding a creative re-use of the gravel and paver stones.

Native strawberry plants were chosen to surround the trees because they’re hearty.

“They can withstand stresses like foot traffic and (road) salt,” said Piskorowski.

The four honey locusts are approximately 20 to 30 years, said Janet McKay, executive director of LEAF. They’ve faced many stresses over the years, much like all city trees do, such as limited soil volumes for root growth, hard surfaces that prevent water and oxygen from reaching roots, over-pruning to accommodate overhead wires and physical damage from vehicles and vandalism.

Additional support for this project came from FIDO-Evergreen, City of Toronto/Urban Forestry and No Frills.

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by Lisa Rainford

Sep 28, 2012