Hug a tree – it’s making you richer

As Mother Nature ever so slowly beckons spring to the Beach, the residents of our beautiful neighbourhood are but mere days away from witnessing the revival of our marvellous oak tree forest and its wondrous canopy. This year it feels late to see our oaks return from their winter slumber. Or was last year just an early return? In any event, soon enough a major thread of what’s so great about living in this neck of the woods will unfold all around us.

But I am reminded when I hear the sound of chain saws that this thread in the fabric of the Beach is really beginning to wear thin. Our majestic oaks and other native trees are reaching their tipping point, if not already there. So, I thought I’d dust off and sort of update a column I’d written back in 2003 about our oak trees, if for no other reason than to remind Beach residents to be mindful that our trees contribute greatly to our community and well-being, and certainly to the prosperity of our real estate.

When I originally wrote that column, it was spurred on by a newspaper article I’d read. A University of Guelph Faculty of Landscaping study showed that the majority of homebuyers preferred properties and neighbourhoods with mature trees over those without. They pointed out that each mature tree could increase a property’s value by $10,000 to $15,000.

In some perverse and sorry way though, not having a tree on the front yard of a Beach property now raises the possibility that a car could be parked there instead, raising the property’s value much more than a beautiful tree might have. I would hope most Beach residents wouldn’t think this way, but sadly, there are many that do.

Our children will be the poorer for it though. The Beach is blessed when it comes to its share of Toronto’s urban hardwood forest, dominated by the majestic red, white, and black oaks; silver, red, and sugar maples. The sandy soil here is good for these species, being well drained and nutrient rich. Balsam fir, beech, white and red spruce, and white pine also flourished here at one time. Alas, mostly remnants remain among us now, some with only their names attached to our streets to remind us, as these types do not adapt well to urban encroachment.

According to Toronto’s Urban Forestry Division, an oak tree in a non-urban forest environment can live from 100 to 400 years. In Toronto’s urban setting, this lifespan is reduced by as much as 50%, and it now sets a maximum age for our trees at around 100 years. The mighty oaks that many Beachers are so fond of are fast approaching the end of that lifespan and diminishing quickly. Over the next decade, our residents will really begin to notice a dramatic change to some streets in our neighbourhood, as there’s such a wide gap between the relatively few trees that have been planted over the last 20 years, and the mighty oaks we luckily inherited.

Some residents prefer not to have oak trees or other native trees on their properties, and will not replace an oak or native maple that needs to be cut-down with another, or even some other type of tree. They may find the acorns or keys and leaves a pain, or fear the roots damage their homes. As mentioned, some want to put front yard parking in, or build an addition to their home, and can gleefully accept the tree’s demise.

Fair enough I guess in this day and age. And I think many of us can be accused of being NIMBY’s when it comes to our real estate investments. Certainly my own business is greatly influenced, and has profited by some measure when by decisions made by Beach homeowners that have enabled them to park cars or build new or bigger.

I’m not trying to judge or preach here at all, rather just musing somewhat I guess. At the same time, I really feel that my business has profited just as much by having these magnificent oaks and other trees adorn the Beach streets where I sell homes. I can’t tell you the amount of times over the 23 years I’ve sold real estate here in the Beach, that I’ve have had people remark about how beautiful and scenic some of our Beach streets are because of the towering trees. And then there are other streets where you can count the number of trees on one hand. Honestly, not too often does the commentary turn to how lovely that street appears.

I have to commend the residents in the New Woodbine Park neighbourhood (site of the old Greenwood racetrack). As much as it was a new development just a decade ago, their zest for boulevard trees is really starting to pay off. Is it any wonder that sale prices there have come as far as they have without due credit given to the streetscapes, and to how trees there have drastically improved them and become a true part of them. That’s a complete and different set of circumstances I understand, but well worth giving pause to on other streets in this wonderful neighbourhood.

And if you haven’t lately, stop beside one of our awesome oaks and towering trees, and thank them for helping magnify your neighbourhood’s property values.

If you have any comments about this article, or questions about Beach real estate in general, please feel free to send me an email at tneal@trebnet.com, or give me a call at 416-690-5100.


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