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Update given on “Map & Grow” program

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The Town of Amherstburg has received an update on its “Map & Grow” program that is done in partnership with the University of Windsor’s School of the Environment.

Danielle Bohn, who also represented her classmates Quentin Maini and Brian Kountourogiannis and professor Alice Grgicak-Mannion, stated they help manage the “Map & Grow” program.

Bohn outlined the value of trees, such as providing shelter and habitat for wildlife, drawing in CO2, cooling the air by casting shade and releasing water vapor, preventing soil erosion and acting as biomonitors for measuring air pollution. She said the town is aiming to increase the tree canopy on public and private land.

“As students who study the environment, we wanted to take this initiative further by creating a maintainable geo-database to monitor health and growth of trees over the next five to ten years within a geographic information system,” she said. “This is a high-end mapping and modelling tool that we have utilized to combine data about the trees with their geographic location so that geospatial analysis may be performed for future initiatives such as using high resolution satellite imagery to track the canopy growth of each tree as well as atmospheric pollution monitoring.”

The program starts each year before Earth Day by tagging each tree with metal tags with a unique ID number and the team records height and diameter. Piroli Group sponsored the event in 2023 and Bohn said trees were distributed to the public for free.

Data was then compiled into a spreadsheet and that acted as the foundation for its geo-database. They contacted each participant and set up a time to go to the homes to check on the trees and precisely upload co-ordinates to the geo-database. No private information of the residents who participate is disclosed publicly, she said.

A total of 365 trees have been given away thus far, said Bohn, with 237 being mapped. Of the 237, 222 have been deemed healthy. Of the trees excluded from the survey, Bohn said some trees did not survive, there was an inability to contact some participants, others who moved away or those who simply didn’t want to participate further.

Future works include completing validation of all tree data, incorporating their geo-database into the town’s GIS, conducting further comparison analysis on tree measurements between years, start planning the tree giveaway event with the town and start planning next year’s field excursions to already planted trees and the logging of new trees.

“There are endless possibilities these future applications this geo-database can be used for,” she indicated.

Bohn said the project have been beneficial for many parties, as students gain field experience and builds a relationship with the town. The town benefits with a comprehensive database and a way to track trees, property values go up and public health improves.

Councillor Linden Crain said it was “an excellent partnership.”

“It’s at low cost to perform research, helping to increase our tree canopy and preserving our trees we do have. I do see the benefit and it’s a win-win. I’d like to see us continue this each year,” said Crain.

Councillor Peter Courtney asked “how big do you want this to be” and wondered how much is too much for the group to maintain. Bohn said everything is documented and believed the work would be roughly the same, but as the tree gets larger, remote sensing and satellite imagery would be used.

Courtney noted the $10,000 ask and asked how it was funded in the past. Director of recreation, parks and facilities Heidi Baillargeon said the group Thrive Amherstburg covered the cost in the first year while the Piroli Group was the sponsor in the second year.

“We’ve had a couple of sponsors over the years and we are looking for a sponsor this year if we can find one,” said Baillargeon. “We do annual tree planting every year as part of our parks operation budget so we’ve been able to continue the trend on Earth Day.”

Courtney said the environmental advisory committee also contributes to Earth Day events. Baillargeon said the $10,000 is already part of the existing operating budget, adding money is “in a coffer” right now to allow the program to continue if a sponsor can’t be found. “We’re asking council to take those operating dollars and make sure this program continues,” she said. Councillor Diane Pouget said it was “an excellent presentation” and wanted to know if sponsors has been sought. Bohn said the students had not and Baillargeon added the town has reached out to the community to see if there is a sponsor.

“We have a few things pending right now,” said Baillargeon.

Grgicak-Mannion added the university is going after external funding as well in order to try to bring more money to incorporate into the program.

Update given on “Map & Grow” program

By Ron Giofu

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