A History of Tree By-laws in King Township

Mar 8, 2022

King Township Trees

By Bruce Craig

CCKT has long advocated for the preservation and appreciation of trees.  This article looks at the many benefits of trees in King Township, the priority of growing the tree canopy, the significant loss of large healthy trees in the Township in recent years, particularly within King City, Nobleton, and Schomberg, and a brief look at efforts to approve and implement a suitable private tree protection by-law. 

The Remarkable Benefits of Trees

In recent years, more and more research and studies highlight the many significant benefits of trees in both rural and urban areas.

  • Produces large amounts of oxygen. 
  • Mitigates climate change – sequesters carbon.
  • Cleans the air and reduces health risks, by absorbing pollutants including toxic particulate matter.
  • With connections to other trees and shrubs, provides food and shelter for countless animal species – birds, mammals, insects – including the growing numbers of species-at-risk.
  • Improves mental, emotional, social and spiritual health.
  • Provides important recreational opportunities.
  • Contributes to the character of neighbourhoods and community aesthetics.

 

Green Infrastructure 

Increasingly the focus on trees within towns and cities is growing.  Trees are a vital asset and are being called “green infrastructure” providing a number of critical services and cost savings including:

  • Shade from the sun during the spring and summer, providing cooling for homes, buildings, along sidewalks and in parking lots.  Temperatures are reduced.  Air conditioning costs are reduced.  Risks to health are reduced.
  • During the winter evergreen trees provide wind breaks and can save heating costs.
  • Trees retain water in the ground during heat events and periods of drought.
  • Roots of trees also absorb water during heavy rain, and stabilize slopes to prevent erosion and reduce the risk of flooding.

 

The Priority of Protecting Mature Trees

Large trees provide a dramatically larger canopy than thousands of newly planted trees.  The following diagram found on p.  of the York Region Forest Management Report 2017 illustrates this point very well.  Notice the 40 cm tree compared to the small newly planted tree with 5 cm diameter.  The larger tree has a canopy 80X more, thus providing measurably larger benefits. 

We must preserve our large, healthy trees and allow them to grow to full maturity.  Unfortunately, as we have all witnessed, as new development and replacement homes are built in King’s three main settlement areas, large healthy trees are regularly removed and many lots completely clearcut.  The ongoing loss to the existing tree canopy in King City, Nobleton and Schomberg is significant.  There are no by-laws in place to protect the trees on a vast majority of residential and commercial lots.

The only exception is the York Region regulations for woodlots defined as forest areas greater than than 0.5 acre (0.2 ha) and are protected under regional regulations.  However, while neighbouring municipalities have implemented private tree preservation by-laws, King Township has been unable to approve and implement a similar by-law to protect large, healthy trees to date.  How can we ensure the future of King’s large trees?

Protecting and Growing the Urban Tree Canopy in King Township Incentives and By-laws

It is very evident, that most long-term residents in King have been excellent stewards of trees over the years and value the many benefits they bring.  However, in the absence of regulations and other tools that will effectively protect large, healthy trees, the loss of large, healthy trees in King’s settlement areas continues, especially as properties change hands.  In addition to an effective by-law could incentives help?

History of Efforts to Approve and Implement a Private Tree By-law

Almost 20 years ago, York Region, assumed responsibility for woodlots greater than 0.5 acre throughout the entire region.  Steps to protect smaller groups of trees and individual trees was given to the nine local municipalities.  In the following years, several of the larger municipalities moved forward in passing by-laws to regulate the removal of individual trees within urbanized areas – Richmond Hill, Markham, Vaughan and Aurora, and most recently Newmarket.

In King Township:

  • 2009:  Staff Report to King Council* recommended the development of a tree by-law through the King Environmental Advisory Committee (KEAC) and the Planning Department. Research on regulatory tree by-laws and best practices commenced.
    * Committee of the Whole
  • 2013:  Staff Report to Council* with a Draft Tree Preservation By-law and Community Consultation Program through Clerks and By-law Enforcement Department. Consultation with the Sustainability Advisory Committee (SAC) and the public began.
  • May 26, 2014:  Staff Report to Council* which summarized feedback, concerns, options, resulting in direction for the need to pursue a Made in King solution that takes into account the community’s unique urban and rural nature and strong connection to the environment through a phased work plan solution by responding to input from the community and exploring options that encourage residents to plant and maintain trees without the necessity of a regulatory approach.
  • 2018 2019:  King Township was approached by Concerned Citizens of King (CCKT) proposing the establishment of a Tree Focus Working Group consisting of CCKT members and King staff, to explore and initiate the introduction of a Made in King regulatory by-law to protect healthy trees within the community.  Bi-monthly meetings took place over almost one year resulting in a draft by-law and staff report.
  • June 10, 2019:  Clerks Department Report to Council*  CL-2019-15.  Re:  Draft Private Tree Protection By-law for the three villages, King City, Nobleton and Schomberg, and a Public Consultation Program.  The draft Private Tree Protection By-law was presented and a three month plan for public consultation began including an on-line survey on the Township website.
  • November 18, 2019:  Clerks Department Report to Council* recommending that the Draft Private Tree By-law not be approved and that the Township explore other options for preserving healthy trees and expand the urban tree canopy.  Council supported the staff recommendation.  The consultation affirmed that a majority of King residents value trees, however, a significant number did not support having a by-law to regulate the removal of trees.
  • 2019 to Date:  Within the three villages, in the hamlets and the countryside areas, healthy mature trees continue to be removed, especially when redevelopment of a property takes place.  There are currently no by-laws or related regulations to protect large, healthy trees on private lots – to cause owners to pause, think and consider other options that would result in maintaining the healthy trees.  Many King Township citizens are concerned and are seeking an effective way to preserve King’s existing trees and to further grow the urban and rural tree canopies.
Next Steps:  CCKT welcomes your ideas and input on how we can ensure the long-term protection of existing large, healthy trees in the rural area and especially in the three settlement areas – King City, Nobleton and Schomberg.