City shares street tree ownership information with residents through online map

Guelph, Ont., November 25, 2016 – At the December 5 Committee of the Whole meeting, Council and the community will learn about the findings of the tree inventory project before an online tool is available on December 6.

The tree inventory project began in 2014 as an initiative of the Urban Forest Management Plan to better understand the number, health, species and ownership of the City’s trees, and to assist the Parks Operations and Forestry division in managing and budgeting for its year-round tree maintenance program. The City spends $1.8 million annually to maintain the urban forest.

To date, staff have inventoried more than 50,000 street and park trees, and an estimated 737,000 trees in City-owned and managed forests. The tree inventory, which is about 90 per cent complete, has also revealed more than 10,000 of Guelph’s residential street trees are privately owned. The City owns 16,579 street trees and 10,387 are shared between the City and property owner. Another 1,979 street trees are pending ownership status.

“There is a natural assumption that when there is a continuous line of street trees uniformly distant from the street, and identical in species and age, that they are owned and maintained by the City. But as we have discovered through the tree inventory, this isn’t always the case,” explains Martin Neumann, manager of Parks Operations and Forestry.

The tree inventory will help residents confirm ownership of street trees. Neumann says tree ownership is a relatively simple concept once the property line location is established.

“If the tree trunk is completely on your property, it belongs to you. If it intersects the property line, it is shared between you and the City, and if it is on the other side of the property line closest to the road, it is owned by the City.”

He further explains, “Forestry staff has a mandate to maintain trees for safety, health and aesthetics; but we also have a duty to trim or cut trees on private property that pose a risk to the safety of people using the road or sidewalks.”

The tree inventory project is expected to be complete by mid-2017 and will be regularly updated to reflect tree plantings as well as the removal of dead or hazardous trees.

Checking your street tree ownership status

Property owners unsure of the ownership status of street trees at their address can visit guelph.ca/trees, beginning December 6, to learn more. Using an aerial map, property owners can click on dots—representing trees—to see tree ownership, species and condition.

If a property owner believes a tree is incorrectly classified, staff will work with the individual to resolve the matter. An online form is being developed for inquiries and will also be available December 6, or owners can email the City at trees@guelph.ca or call 519-822-1260.

For information about keeping trees healthy, visit guelph.ca/trees.

 Street tree ownership types

There are three street tree ownership types in Guelph: City owned, privately owned, and shared/boundary.

Trees that are planted between the sidewalk and the curb are considered City owned, except for special circumstances like condo developments.

For privately-owned trees, regardless of who planted the tree, the property owner is responsible for maintenance, but the City has a responsibility to keep the right-of-way and its users safe. The majority of privately-owned street trees are on residential lots under 0.5 acres in size, and therefore are not regulated by Guelph’s Tree Bylaw.

A shared or boundary tree is when the property line intersects with the main trunk of the tree. Legally, there is shared ownership and responsibility. However, in practice, the City has shouldered the maintenance burden of shared trees.

Staff will review tree maintenance policies, including approaches to the various tree ownership scenarios, and make recommendations for Council consideration in Q2 2017.

New housing developments

Historically, the City has planted street trees in new housing developments, although community groups and/or the developer may have also had a role in the plantings over the years. In the past year, responsibility for street plantings has shifted to the developer, who is required to implement a City-approved street tree plan, and to advise purchasers, on title, that they are responsible for maintenance of trees on the private side of the property line.

For more information

Martin Neumann
Manager, Parks Operations and Forestry
519-822-1260 extension 3337
martin.neumann@guelph.ca