Treeing Harbord Village


In 2007, HVRA recruited and coordinated dozens of residents to produce a formal inventory of all the trees in our area. it took two years, and that was only the start! The original inventory increased volunteers’ appreciation of our urban forest and led to the planting of over 100 new backyard trees. It also underpinned further tree-related projects. Several years on, the inventory has been repeated to measure changes in the tree canopy, and a further initiative is envisaged to extend tree renewal.

HVRA Tree Inventories 2007-8, 2014 and 2017-18 Followups

Andy Kenney instructing HVRA volunteersIt started with a big group of volunteers and has become a research achievement. In spring 2007, over 50 volunteers were trained by Professor Andy Kenney of the U of T Faculty of Forestry to use his Neighbourwoods system for itemizing tree characteristics. This multi-column checklist focusses on growing conditions and tree health.

2007, Trainees analysing a treeOver the summers of 2007 and 2008, these trained volunteers worked in teams coordinated by Forestry graduate students to collect data on nearly 4000 trees. The resulting information was recorded in an Excel file, which you can download and search or filter to see the condition of individual trees, or find locations of  specific tree species, or investigate whatever else interests you. (Note that the file records conditions in 2007-08. You will see some changes since then!)

Using this data, the graduate students produced extensive analyses, using them for coursework and also sharing them with HVRA. Their documents are available in PDF form:

  • Julie Keller’s 2007 report, based on data collected the first summer, set out a detailed Management Plan urging us to care for existing trees as well as plant new ones; her Appendices provided further information about trees suitable for our growing conditions.
  • Louise Potts completed the data collection in the summer of 2008 and submitted a Final Report.

3 students with equipment for conducting tree inventory2014 FOLLOWUP to HVRA INVENTORY

In 2014, a team of students from Ryerson University updated the data for 2000 of our trees and conducted a detailed analysis of 800 or so, comparing their data to the results of our earlier inventory. (The photo here shows James Steenberg with his research assistants Amber Grant at left and Claire Stevenson-Blythe at right. Photo by Ryerson University.) James incorporated this work into his Ph.D. dissertation at Ryerson University.

  • His article in our Fall 2016 HVRA Newsletter (pages 18-19) outlines the changes he found in our tree canopy. Many large old trees were lost in the six-year interim, almost always because of renovation work and paving over of green space. He also notes that the new trees planted are often smaller ornamental species, and he urges us to value even gnarly old “weed” trees like Tree of Heaven and Manitoba Maple even if they aren’t ornamental or neat.
  • In another online article for a research group focussing on government-citizen interactions, James uses the HVRA Tree Inventory as an example of the value of open data for urban planning.
stuidents for 2017 HVRA tree inventory
Nicole Pinto and Christian Rempe, Summer 2017


In Summers 2017 and 2018, we sponsored a repeat of the inventory to get an updated picture of our tree canopy. In 2017, under the supervision of the U of T Forestry Department, two students measured trees and evaluated their health. In spite of the rainy weather, they made substantial progress. We expect the re-inventory will be completed in Summer 2018.

Two federal summer-job grants and residual funds from the HVRA Tree Inventory account have supported their work, along with donations from local residents. Our Donations page makes it easy to give online, or you can follow the method below to receive a tax receipt:

The Lions Club of Toronto has offered to issue tax receipts for donations over $30. Please make out a cheque to Lions Club of Toronto Central, with HVRA Tree Inventory” in the memo line. Then mail it to PO Box 68522, 360A Bloor St. W., Toronto ON M5S 1X1.


Tree Planting, ongoing

In 2008-10, HVRA followed up needs identified in the inventory by acquiring trees for back yards and making them available to residents at a discount, supplementing the City’s offer of free trees for front yards. The Toronto Parks and Trees Foundations subsidized the purchases, with residents who requested trees contributing a modest fee. Teams of volunteers did the actual planting. HVRA also worked with neighbouring residents’ associations to facilitate more tree-planting. Over 100 backyard trees were planted.

In the summer of 2009, resident donations were used to plant trees on the grounds of Central Technical School, with students joining the volunteer planting teams.

The HVRA’s December 2009 report to the Toronto Parks and Trees Foundation details the backyard planting done and outlines residents’ contributions in money and time. The photos below also show some of the action.

In Spring 2018, HVRA wrote our local Councillor proposing a further initiative to preserve and enhance our tree canopy, noting that we could draw on our long experience in tree analysis and planting. Such an initiative would help the City fulfil its stated aims of increasing canopy coverage. See the letter here.

Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan, 2012

When the Emerald Ash Borer hit trees in the Toronto area, the inventory helped us identify the locations of Harbord Village ash trees and move quickly to treat them. In 2012, U of T Forestry students Sarah Melamed and Yin Zhou wrote a detailed account of the problem and presented us with an Emerald Ash Borer Management Plan.

Click on the images below to see larger versions of the photos.