Planting trees at Peelton Hills

I admit that I didn’t know where Peelton Hills Park was when I started out this past Saturday morning for the Sierra Club/CVC tree-planting event. It’s not a park I’ve frequented before. It was a beautiful spring day and Google Maps said it would take me less than 40 minutes to travel the 11.5km by bike.

I left my house at 8:15am and traveled my usual route to downtown Brampton using Conestoga, Hinchley Wood, Centre St., Church, Union and, Chapel. From there I took Wellington to Mill St. Heading south on Mill I noticed a path off the to the east that I’d never been on. I was early so I had time to explore. The path proved to be short, dumping me out onto Hodgson St. I continued south to Charolais and took the bike lane west to Peelton Heights Road. Just a short hop along Parkside Dr. took me to the path leading to the Park. Even with the short detour, I still arrived by 8:55am.

Lindsey Jennings, a Community Outreach Specialist with the Credit Valley Conservation Authority was already there, accompanied by two of her staff and a staff volunteer. They were getting the potted trees out of the truck and distributing them in a grassy area of the park. As she put me to work laying out 60 shovels for the anticipated volunteer planters, Lindsey told me this park was selected for tree-planting because of its low canopy coverage. “There are trees along the bank of Fletcher’s Creek”, she said. “But, with all the nearby homes, there’s not enough tree cover in the area. We need more trees to reduce heat-island effect.”

Heat island is caused when natural vegetation is replaced with hard and dark materials such as brick and asphalt. These materials absorb and store heat from the sun. In the summer, areas of a city with no or low tree vegetation can be as much as 7 degrees warmer than surrounding neighbourhoods with a higher percentage of tree canopy. At night, the differential can be as much as 22 degrees!

Heat islands represent a dangerous health risk, particularly in a warming climate. During the week of June 25-July 01, 2021, British Columbia experienced a heat dome with day-time temperatures soaring above 40 degrees in many parts of the Province. The BC Coroner’s Service responded to a sudden and unprecedented number of deaths that week with 619 being attributed to heat-related causes. These types of weather events are expected to become more frequent across the country in future years as a result of climate change.

Trees do a lot more than just cool the neighbourhood. They filter the air and remove polluting particulates. They absorb carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen, which we need to breathe. They create local habitat for birds and animals. And they beautify the community. Trees are an important part of creating and maintaining eco-systems and preserving biodiversity. Southern Ontario is among the most biodiverse areas in Canada. It is also the area experiencing the most pressure due to population growth and development. For these reasons, it is critically important that we increase tree canopy in all our urban and suburban areas.

The majority of volunteers arrived by 9:30. After a short demonstration of how to properly plant a tree, the volunteers went to work, digging holes, pulling the saplings from their pots, placing the root ball in the hole, covering it with a mulch mat, and then tearing up the left-over sod into small pieces that will decay into the surrounding soil. Together we planted more than 170 trees in about 2 hours.

Thanks to Sierra Club and Credit Valley Conservation Authority for organizing the event. Thanks to the dozens of volunteers who came from Sheridan College, Toronto, Mississauga, Oakville, and Brampton. And thanks to the 6 seniors who were encouraged to attend the event as part of the BEA project on graceful aging. Next event will be May 20th, “Spring Birding in the Park”.

I went home via Fred Klein Park, located just north of Chris Gibson Recreation Centre. Here CVC had teamed with the City of Brampton and Community Climate Council on another tree-planting and tree giveaway event. I even was offered a free hamburger! All in all, it was a good day for Brampton trees and for me!

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