Urban Forest Questions for HRM Candidates - District 9 Candidate Shawn Cleary

Halifax Diverse has been active in urban environmental stewardship for four years and we understand the importance of a healthy urban forest to thriving cities. With the upcoming municipal election (online now and at the polls on October 15), we wanted to find out if all candidates plan to be good urban forest stewards. We asked the same nine questions of all 56 municipal candidates and 26 replied (click here for the entire list).

Here are Shawn Cleary's (Candidate for Councillor, Halifax West Armdale) answers to our questions.

Candidate's responses are in regular font, like this!

1.         Why are trees important to you?

There is something fundamental in the human mind that responds to trees. Few things contribute so much to well-being.

2.         Can you relate a fond memory of trees or a tree in particular?

This summer, I built a tree-house for my daughter in our backyard and she just loves it. It is wonderful having such mature trees right here in the centre of the city.

3.         Why are trees important in HRM and your district in particular?

They offer many measurable economic benefits: they absorb stormwater, mitigate the heat island effect, clean our air of CO2 and other pollution, and attract foot traffic on commercial streets. Perhaps more important, however, is the immeasurable benefits. Trees are central to our quality of life and our pride in this city.

HRM's Urban Forest Master Plan

The HRM UFMP is a council endorsed plan co-written by HRM staff and members of Dalhousie University's School for Resource and Environmental Studies. This award winning document provides guidance for the management of HRM's urban forest into the future using a novel neighbourhood system developed specifically for the UFMP that divides the sewer and water serviced areas of HRM into 111 neighbourhoods. It can be found digitally at: http://www.halifax.ca/property/UFMP/documents/SecondEditionHRMUFMP.pdf

4.         Which UFMP neighbourhoods does your district occupy (if applicable)?

Old Ashburn Golf Course, Dutch Village, Fairmont, Armdale, West End, Connaught/ Quinpool, Melville Cove I, Melville Cove II, Cowie Hill, Williamswood, Jollimore, Boulderwood, Spryfield West, Purcell's Cove Road West and Stonemount.

The following are priorities of the UFMP implementation strategy, as described in the UFMP, and are to be implemented within the initial 5-year timeframe:

a.         Increase funding, plant more trees on HRM land and improve urban forest maintenance.

b.         Adopt new regulations and standards to conserve urban forest canopy cover.

c.         Promote citizen urban forest stewardship and develop educational programs.

5.         As we approach the end of the 5-year initial time-frame in 2017, do you believe these priorities have been adequately addressed? Where is there room for the most significant improvement?

A. The urban forestry budget for 2015 is $2.5 million, which is about 1/5 of the $12 million 5 year goal, so I'd say it's about on-target.

B. I'm please Council has made progress towards protecting and requiring trees in new developments. More needs to be done to protect trees along river, lakes and ocean in a way that is not too onerous for residents or the city. More must be done to protect trees during maintenance, snow clearing, grass mowing and other dangers. Bringing more services in-house could help mitigate some of these threats.

C. More can always be done to raise awareness about what we can all do to steward our trees.

Looking Forward

6.         What do you believe is the greatest threat to the HRM urban forest? In your district specifically?

It is great that young trees have been planted on Connaught and Quinpool, but I worry they may be vulnerable to damage. Some residents have also expressed concern about the loss of trees along the North West Arm on private land.

7.         What role do you suggest citizens play in supporting a healthy urban forest?

They can plant more trees on their own land and maintain the trees they have. They can organize and volunteer on forestry stewardship initiatives. We should also work with residents to ensure there is sufficient bike parking, and to encourage cyclists not to lock bikes to young trees.

8.         How will you promote and contribute to a healthy urban forest as councilor?

I will ensure the budget for tree pruning and installation stays on-target. I will support efforts to protect trees along rivers, lakes and the ocean. I will pursue solutions for ensuring our snow-clearing, grass-cutting and maintenance programs do not harm young trees.

9.         What changes would you like to see to your district’s urban forest in the next 10 years?

I would like to see many more healthy and diverse trees. In particular, I would like to work with residents on a plan to make Herring Cove Road a great, walkable mainstreet for local residents, and part of that goal would include many trees to line the streets in key areas.

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Thank you to Shawn Cleary and all the other candidates who took the time to answer our questionnaire. We hope that our new municipal government will continue to improve urban forest stewardship in HRM to protect a vital natural resource that cannot be taken for granted. Voters are encouraged to challenge their candidates' stance on this and other environmental issues to ensure our municipal government strives for environmental sustainability. Anyone interested in learning more about the Urban Forest Master Plan can learn more from the document, found here, or the UFMP page, found here

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