As we come to the end of National Forest Week, I think it’s important to highlight the excellent work of our Parks and Recreation Department in preserving our urban forests.

In fact, our city’s stewardship of our natural lands was the focus of praise at Monday’s council meeting.

Expert biologist Dan Barcza, of Sage Earth, had this to say about our efforts: “I just want to say one thing to the City of Windsor: I work all over Ontario and I’d say you guys have done an amazing job at protecting your natural lands and it’s impressive what you’ve done. At any of these rare areas, you’ve done a fantastic job of protecting them and it’s very admirable.”

Windsor is home to about 700 hectares of vast natural areas and forests, including Ojibway Park, Black Oak Heritage Park, Tallgrass Prairie Heritage Park, Spring Garden Natural Area, Oakwood Natural Area, Peche Island and the Airport Woodlots.

We have protected 350 hectares of nationally endangered tallgrass prairie, oak woodland and savannah habitat containing more than 2,000 species and close to 200 rare species.

Each year, our dedicated staff plant 1,150 large caliper-sized trees in front of residences and in our parks. This is in addition to the 5,000 saplings that we plant in partnership with Essex Region Conservation Authority, Forests Ontario and Scouts Canada.

The amended capital budget approved by council this month allocates about $685,000 towards the 2018-2020 tree maintenance program. This program ensures that trees, both young and old, receive the routine maintenance they require to remain vibrant, safe and aesthetically pleasing.

The tree maintenance program allows us to begin a canopy cover study to determine the level of canopy cover that exists in Windsor. This includes identifying where our oldest and most at risk trees are, while also pinpointing areas of the city that have the most potential for an increase in tree planting efforts.

Finally, this program allows us to create the city’s first ever urban forest management plan. This plan will guide our forestry division in reaching our goals and objectives by identifying ways we can protect, maintain and enhance our urban forest.

– Mayor Drew Dilkens