Tree giveaway a hit
Hundreds of St. Catharines residents went to the Seymour Hannah arena to buy rain barrels and pick up free trees. Photo by Grant LaFleche
They came in cars. They came in trucks. They even came on scooters.
But no matter how they got to the parking lot of the Seymour Hannah arena Saturday morning, hundreds of St. Catharines residents left with rain barrels and a free tree to aid the City Hall's effort to expand St. Catharines's urban tree canopy.
The barrel sale is an annual event, but for the first time Saturday it was paired with a giveaway of trees to residents who wanted one.
"The barrel sale is really popular, and it seemed like a good idea to include the trees at the same event," said Phil Cristi, the city's parks and recreation director.
As in the past, residents could buy rain barrels for $40 each and this year could also take away one of four varieties of trees - tulip trees, shademaster honeylocusts, freeman maples and Redmond lindens.
The sale started at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. By 9 a.m. most of the trees and barrels had been claimed.
The event was scheduled to run until 1 p.m., but by 11 a.m. there were only handful of barrels left, and just one tree remained.
Christi said the tree giveaway is an attempt to expand the scope of the tree canopy in St. Catharines.
The city has been aiming to have 30% tree coverage in the city, but the current canopy only covers around 15% of the city.
Cristi said the city has lost many trees to the emerald ash borer, an invasive insect from Asia responsible for killing millions of ash trees across southern Ontario. The presence of the voracious bug has set back the city's attempt to expand the tree canopy.
"We've lost many trees to the EAB," Cristi said. "So we are also trying to encourage residents to plant trees on their own private property to help grow the canopy."
Cristi said trees are "critical" to the health of the city in many ways and trees and private property will complement the city's efforts on municipal land.