“Nature’s Cathedral”

Hunt Club Forest contains a natural forest, and a plantation of Red Pine (Pinus_resinosa). Many will argue that a plantation is not natural, but through many decades, this plantation has provided a large amount of carbon sequestration, and provided outdoor green space for residents, aiding in relaxation and mental health. With the growing destruction of trees in our city, the previous rules of expansion and development for the sake of economic growth at all costs, NEED to be reassessed and changed. Do trees in a plantation sequester less carbon than those in a forest? If yes, at what point do we say that that amount is inconsequential, during a climate crisis? The roots and leaf litter of a plantation helps increase soil health, and provides value in tree canopy, shade, reducing air and noise pollution. Unfortunately, finding the history of who and when these trees were planted has not been easy to confirm.

In Ottawa’s New Official Plan, section 2.4.2 defines Urban Significant Woodland as “In the urban area, any area 0.8 hectares in size or larger, supporting woodland 60 years of age and older at the time of evaluation“. The land is federally owned, but shows how the City of Ottawa has put dedication towards policies regarding older growths when it is subjected to development.

A reference to the maturity of these trees was included in the environmental assessment by McKinley Environmental, so we believe there is some weight behind its approach on development policies. The environmental report only dates these trees approximately 55 years old, however, the 1965 photo suggests these are not first year seedlings. Through calculations below, it is suggested they are at least 60 years old at this time.

DETERMINING THE SIZE AND AGE OF THE PINE TREES

In the 1965 aerial photograph, one can clearly see a vehicle travelling along Hunt Club Road. This allows the ability to take some fairly accurate measurements for purposes of comparison.

  • The ratio of the car to tree is about 5:1 or 10:2
  • The average length of a car in 1965 was 20 ft. which suggests the trees are 4 ft. in diameter.
  • If the road width is 30 ft, (a typical 2 lane paved road), then the ratio of the road width to the trees is 15:2, or 30:4. This supports that the trees (with branches) are about 4 ft. in diameter in 1965.

According to the USA Forest Services*, red pines grow less that 10 inches per year in the first 4 years. That then increases to 12 to 24”. Using calculation, a tree that is approximately 4 ft. wide, would be about 5’5” (65″) in height.

  • Total Height of 65”
  • 4 years @ 9” = 36”
  • 65″ – 35″ = 30”
  • 30” = additional 2 years of growth
  • Therefore, the trees are approximately 6 years old in 1965.
1965 aerial photograph of the pine trees next to Hunt Club Rd.

Active Community in the Forest

Photo by Sylvia Bakker
Photo by Sylvia Bakker

Through the decades, this forest has formed many trails, as local residents spend time here to walk their dog, jog, find relaxation, or improve their overall mental health. Being around trees helps to reduce stress, anger, fatigue, sadness and anxiety. Spending time around trees can also help to increase energy. These are all effects that Health Canada has also promoted through the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan.

It is ideal on really hot summer days, as the forest canopy provides cover from strong UV rays, and also provides dogs a comfortable space to be walked. Evaporation from a single tree can produce a cooling effect equivalent to 10 room size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.

Kids have been able to use the green space instead of sitting in front of television screens all day. They have used it to build creative forts, and ramps to ride their bikes, far away from busy traffic. If you walk through these trails you will find these, as well as other creations such as bridges, fairy-houses and even impressive shelter constructions.

Ten years ago my boys and their friends would always be found there biking the trails. Now we still go back there walking with them when they visit! It’s an incredible spot for kids and adults alike.
Kinza Luten Slater

 

We walk there tons and for the last summer or two my husband took to fixing the bike trails and fixing/adding jumps for biking. Spent hours with our son out there biking all the time and if we’re not biking we’re walking and catching Pokémon. The section they’d be taking out is personally the really fun parts of the trails
Jessica Tarso

 

I remember when those trees were like blades of grass. That area has seen so much development that has had a devastating impact on the environment.
Ken Pritchard

 

We have spent lots of time there..I walk my dog, my youngest and his friends have built forts, my older kids go there to ride bikes and walk/ run. I run through the trails. It’s a wonderful escape from reality and I think many families used it more with the lockdown to get out and keep sane. It is heartbreaking to imagine it gone.
Amy Legault-Zehr

 

Our family uses it for biking trails!
Karyn Pool Cornfield

 

I moved to Wisteria 6 1/2 yrs ago and discovered the trails, been using them periodically ever since, especially during Covid. It brings me peace
Tobie Mangione

During the lockdowns my son built numerous forts in these woods to get away from th noise of people and the glare of tv screens. They are still awesome little shelters. A little slice of normal in the midst of a city.
Nick Baggins

 

We’ve been on Wisteria for 15 years, and walk in the forest several times a week. Our dog goes crazy without these walks. And I have discovered that I, too, go slightly insane without adequate time in the woods. How lucky we are that we can walk 5 minutes to access this beautiful space. I know Ottawa has many wonderful trails, but it sure is nice not to have to get into our car to get to one.
Sylvia Bakker
Explore the many trails that our community has enjoyed for decades

Benefits of an Urban Forest

Urban forests can help cities adapt to a changing climate, cooling air temperatures and reducing flood risk by absorbing excess rainfall. They also absorb CO2 emissions and filter air pollutants. At the same time, they support birds and wildlife, offer recreational areas, and increase property values. The table below highlights some of the many benefits of urban forests. [ Source: Growing Forests in a City: Case Study ]

Reduce GHGs

Between 1990 and 2018, urban trees removed an average of 2.4 Mt of GHGs per year according to the National Inventory Report. Urban forests also contribute to GHG emission reductions by reducing air conditioning needs in nearby buildings.

Cool the Air

Large trees reduce ambient air temperatures with their shade and through evapotranspiration, cooling the air by as much as 1-5 degrees Celsius

Limit Flooding

Climate change will increase the frequency and intensity of storms and rainfall in some regions. Permeable, natural surfaces allow water to seep into the ground and reduce total amount and slow rate of runoff, reducing the risk that wastewater and stormwater systems overflow. Root systems from trees and shrubs make it easier for water to infiltrate the soil and soak up large quantities of water.

Support Biodiversity

Connected urban forests can provide corridors for plants and animals to move. This is increasingly important as a changing climate leads to shifts in habitat as urban areas expand.

Clean Air

Extreme heat associated with climate change is projected to increase concentration of ground level ozone, and more frequent and intense wildfires will make particulate matter pollution worse in some areas. Trees can help filter airborne particulate matter and absorb ground level ozone and other pollutants.

Food / Medicine

Green spaces can increase food security and build healthier communities. If urban forests are combined with community gardens, they can provide the opportunity to source healthy food and support lower income families. Indigenous-led green spaces can also provide space to share knowledge and traditions

General Health

Urban forests provide opportunities to practice both physical and relaxing activities. The mere presence of greenery is shown to improve mental health, with some doctors now prescribing nature alongside other treatments.