OPIRG McMASTER

      2017 Hamilton Street Tree Project

Report by Chelsea Lowes, 2017 Street Tree staff

Supervised by: Randy Kay

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About the Project

In 2004, the City of Hamilton established the Street Tree Planting Program: an initiative offering a free street tree to eligible properties that make the request for one,with the hopes of increasing the urban tree canopy throughout the city. Eligible properties are those with enough land overlapping the city road allowance to fit a tree. Though the program has proven to be effective in increasing the city’s overall greenness, it is severely underused; thus the creation of The Street Tree Project.

     

Randy Kay created this project in 2013. Using reports comparing the effects of air pollution on different neighbourhoods, and evidence showing a correlation between low-income neighbourhoods and a lower urban tree canopy, the project set out to promote the City Street Tree Program in neighbourhoods which needed it most. These neighbourhoods are known as ‘Code Red’ neighbourhoods, categorized as such by possessing the lowest levels of income, health and air quality in the city.[1] , With the support of OPIRG McMaster, the project has been able to access grants to hire a McMaster student to manage the project each summer.

About the Area

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In previous years, The Hamilton Street Tree Project has targeted the Keith, Stipley, Gibson, Landsdale and Crown Point neighbourhoods; all of which have been deemed “Code Red’ neighbourhoods through research by McMaster University[2]. This year, the project targeted the Homeside neighbourhood, stretching from Kenilworth St N, to Strathearne, and from Main St E down to the CNR tracks north of Barton St E.

     The Homeside neighbourhood backs onto a large portion of Hamilton’s industrial sector, putting the residents at a greater risk of poor air quality. This is a potential explanation for the neighbourhood ranking in the highest 20% of the city’s respiratory-related ER visits. Furthermore, the Homeside neighbourhood is among the lowest 20% of Hamilton’s median household income. [3]52% of this population make less than $50,000 annually, which is substantially lower than the city’s median household income of $86, 119[4]. And finally, approximately 19.3% of individuals over 15 years of age live in poverty[5], which is higher than the municipal average of both, this age group, and children, who are impoverished combined (18.9%).[6] 

     

A factor that may contribute to the high levels of poverty, is the low levels of education in this neighbourhood. The Homeside neighbourhood ranks in the highest 20% of Hamilton’s high school dropout rates. Just as well, the neighbourhood is included in the lowest 20% of Hamiltonians possessing a university degree.[7] A local real estate company estimates that only 37% of residents have a post-secondary education.[8] 

  Tree Requests

This year, the Hamilton Street Tree Project collected a total of 33 requests. 25 of these were collected at the door while canvassing, 6 were collected through later contact with individuals who had received a flyer, either in their mailbox (3), or from canvassers with whom they had spoke to (3), and 2 requests were made for properties outside of the Homeside neighbourhood by homeowners who discovered the program through word of mouth, media and/or social media presence.

     The Hamilton Street Tree Project informed Hamiltonians of the city’s Tree Planting Program through:

Attending Community Events

Hamilton’s 100in1Day

On June 3rd, the project set up a booth at Green Venture’s Depave Paradise event, held at The Holy Family Perish on Kenilworth Ave N. Here we offered free buttons, and information, as well as the opportunity to request a tree on site.

Since Kenilworth Avenue falls between the neighbourhoods of Homeside and Crown Point, volunteers from both communities were helping at the event. Thus, many individuals were familiar with the project, as it had targeted the Crown Point neighbourhood in previous years. No requests were made at the event, but it was a great opportunity to discuss ideas and updates on the project with local residents.

Door to Door Canvassing

     

Canvassing

The most effective approach to collecting tree requests was at door-to-door canvassing, as it facilitated 80% of the total requests this year. This is likely the case for a few different reasons. Firstly, many individuals did not know of the program, and may have never known about it if it was not promoted on their doorstep. This direct interaction with residents also allowed us to answer any questions or concerns they had. Without having a quick opportunity to discuss them, the concerns regarding the program may not otherwise be pursued, and instead become a lingering reason to refrain from making a request. Approaching people door-to-door also allowed them to make the request with ease.            

Canvassing on weekday evenings facilitated the most tree requests. Not only was this when most residents were home, but also when they were most likely to make a request. Volunteers would usually set out around 3 PM and finish around 7 or 8 PM. There were some individuals who were just arriving at their home (presumably from work) as we were approaching it. After judging their body language (i.e. whether or not they made eye contact, or had any hesitation in heading to their door, etc.) we either approached or avoided these individuals. One incident where we approached the individual resulted in a brief conversation, but no request; another did not result in conversation, and a final incident resulted in a follow up email and later request.  Of the 784 eligible properties in the Homeside neighbourhood, 229 individuals (~30%) were home.

Canvassing also provided insight into reasons why individuals did not want a tree on their property. As household income was lower than municipal average, properties tended to be relatively small. Many residents spoken to claimed they did not believe their property was big enough for a tree. Some of these individuals changed their mind when they saw the many species of small spread trees that were available, however many others did not. Some individual’s reported frustration with their experience of city tree maintenance (how many), both on their own property, and that of others. The most common scenarios were poor maintenance of newly planted trees and poor removal of diseased trees; especially where stumps were left behind.

Flyers

Flyers containing brief information about the project, as well as contact information were left in the mailboxes of eligible properties where homeowners were away, or when canvassers felt that their effort would not be well received (Appendix 1). This includes door signs discouraging door-to-door reps and solicitors. Specifically, the flyers contained a link to the Hamilton Street Tree Project blog (i.e. where they can find information about the project, and the list of available species), an email address to be used for further contact, and the account handles for the project’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram account.

Since 555 owners out of 784 eligible properties were not home during canvassing efforts, leaving flyers seemed to be an effective way at increasing the neighbourhood’s general awareness of the project, and informing individuals that their property was eligible. Though this did facilitate interest among a handful of eligible homeowners, flyers only resulted in 3 requests.

Many houses in the Homeside neighbourhood had signs in their doors or windows discouraging door-to-door reps and solicitors. Initially, volunteers ignored the signs as they did not specifically apply to our campaigning, however this changed after a few encounters with frustrated homeowners. Although the Hamilton Street Tree Project was not selling anything, residents often associated volunteers with solicitors and were opposed to our offer before they knew what it was.  From thereon, volunteers simply left a flyer in the mailboxes of these homes as well.

     

Another use of the flyer was as a takeaway piece of information about the

project, when individuals did not want to rush their decision. If homeowners were unsure of whether they wanted to make a request, or of what species to choose,etc., they were left with a flyer as well. However more often than not, giving the individual a choice of later contact, resulted in no further contact. This was later resolved by receiving the resident’s email and following up with them directly, as opposed to relying on them to do so. Later contact as a result of interactions between canvassers and homeowners resulted in 3 tree requests.

Media and Online Presence

        

Media Presence

A media presence is very important in gaining community awareness of your initiative. This year, Raise the Hammer published an article outlining the goals  and history of the Hamilton Street Tree Project. Furthermore, local station Cable 14 News interviewed The Street Tree Project Coordinator during the City Matters segment, providing further promotion of the project. Though we did not receive word of how many individuals were tuned in, a video featuring the highlights of the interview received approximately 2,400 views, 39 shares and 40 likes on Facebook.

Social Media Presence

The Hamilton Street Tree Project already had an existing facebook page, blog, and twitter account. The Facebook page, created after a recommendation following the 2016 project, gained 53 likes over the two month project, and the amount of people following the twitter account increased by 282 during the same period. This year, the project created a new instagram account to become even more involved in Hamilton’s green community that exists on social media. This has gained 185 followers and each post acquires on average, approximately 23 likes. Our social media has accounted for two requests this year. 

One campaign that has emerged from the creation of this Instagram account is Tree Tuesdays. Each Tuesday during the course of the project, we would post a photo admiring a different tree in the target neighbourhood using the hashtag #TreeTuesday. This photo would identify the type of tree, and also a fun fact about the tree, or why that one was chosen. This was a great way to both, promote the project, and also shine light on some beautiful trees that already exist in the area. This will hopefully be continued in later years.

Volunteers

     

There were a total of four volunteers who assisted with the project this year. Two accompanied the coordinator regularly, and two occasionally.

Volunteers attended a brief orientation prior to heading out canvassing. This provided them information on general safety, the project itself, and property eligibility criteria. While walking the Homeside neighbourhoods, they would first use the eligibility criteria to determine if a property was eligible, and pursue those that they determined to be, as a way of saving time. Many volunteers had previous canvassing experience, so the orientation was aimed at tailoring their knowledge and experience to the project’s intentions.

It was relatively difficult to find volunteers this year, and as such the volunteers did not share much common ground. Attempts were made to recruit volunteers through OPIRG and social media, but this was mostly unsuccessful; as only 1 volunteer was recruited this way. Most of the volunteers were recruited through their personal relationship with the project coordinator.

 

Community Partnerships

The Hamilton Street Tree Project would not be possible without the help of Bill Longley and Sam Scarlett from the city of Hamilton’s Department of Forestry. These two provided a lot of knowledge on the city’s tree planting program, as well as suggesting relevant resources, and community members to reach out to. Brandylyn Tiffney from Hamilton Forestry was also of much assistance to the project, offering her knowledge of trees, eligibility criteria, as well as prefered canvassing approaches. The Street Tree Project would not have near as much success without their expertise.

Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla has been a great support and ally to this year’s Street Tree Project. He has provided us with many contacts within the target community, as well as increased awareness of the project through his social media. Furthermore, he suggested a list of community events that may be a successful means of further promoting the project. He too contributed largely to the success of the project.

     

Environment Hamilton was an extremely supportive ally once again this year. Not only was it a delight to discuss ongoing and future research and initiatives with Juby Lee, but we would like to thank her for inviting us to be involved in Hamilton’s own Air and Tree Task Force. This is a great opportunity to collaborate with individuals who share our goal of making Hamilton a more environmentally healthy city. The Street Tree Project would also like to thank Green Venture for inviting us to set up a table at their Depave Paradise Event for Hamilton’s 100 in 1 Day.

The Street Tree Project would like to thank Cable 14 and Doug Farraway for inviting us to take part in their City Matters segment, as well as Raise the Hammer and Ryan McGreal for publishing our article, and Alysha Main for mentioning us on her CMFU radio show.

The Street Tree Project would also like to thank Peter Wobschall, for discussing community grants, and the future of the project. We would also like to thank David Harris-Smith for discussing his research and McMaster’s augmented reality project. Finally, we would like to thank Liam McLaughlin (Appendix 2) and Aidan Keenan (Appendix 3) for lending the project their creativity and putting forth designs that will hopefully be used in years to come.

Challenges and Next Steps

The largest problem the project encountered this year was recruiting volunteers. As we were limited this year, we were unable to revisit all eligible properties, and were unable to experiment with how success may differ as the canvassing times changed. More volunteers would have meant more comprehensive coverage of the area, and more flexibility in canvassing.

Though the project coordinator is hired through a grant, additional funding would allow the project to continue to expand and improve. Many other grants throughout the city exist, and would provide The Street Tree Project with the resources to expand the scope of the project and greenify the city faster. One use of the funding could be to hire more staff, or expand our search for volunteers. Another may be also offering homeowners a chance to purchase a subsidized tree they can place wherever they’d like; as the placement was one factor stopping people from making a request.

Ultimately, it has been a great year for The Street Tree Project, and we are excited to see where it heads. Furthermore, The Street Tree Project would like to once again thank everyone who helped make this year a success.

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 Appendix 1

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                                                 Appendix 2

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Design by Liam McLaughlin



                                         
Appendix 3


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Design by Aidan Keenan


[1] The Hamilton Spectator, (2010). World’s Apart.

Accessed from https://www.thespec.com/news-story/2168237-worlds-apart/

[2] McMaster University’s Centre for Spatial Analysis. (2010). [ Graph illustration the Code Red

Neighbourhood Profiles]. Code Red: Mapping the Health of Hamilton. Retrieved from

http://media.metroland.com/thespec.com/statistics_flash/

[3] McMaster University’s Centre for Spatial Analysis. (2010). [ Graph illustration the Code Red

Neighbourhood Profiles]. Code Red: Mapping the Health of Hamilton. Retrieved from

http://media.metroland.com/thespec.com/statistics_flash/

[4] Carrick, R. (2015). A House for Three Times Your Income? Think again. The Globe and Mail. Accessed

from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/mortgages-and-rates/canadas-old-standards-

of-housing-affordability-need-an-update/article27126408/

[5] McMaster University’s Centre for Spatial Analysis. (2010). [ Graph illustration the Code Red

Neighbourhood Profiles]. Code Red: Mapping the Health of Hamilton. Retrieved from

http://media.metroland.com/thespec.com/statistics_flash/

[6] Scott, K. (2016). Poverty at Your Doorstep. World Vision Canadian Programs. Accessed at:

https://citykidz.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/PAYD-Hamilton-2016-v4.pdf

[7] McMaster University’s Centre for Spatial Analysis. (2010). [ Graph illustration the Code Red

Neighbourhood Profiles]. Code Red: Mapping the Health of Hamilton. Retrieved from

http://media.metroland.com/thespec.com/statistics_flash/

[8] Next Home. Neighbourhood Profile: Homeside. Accessed at  

http://nexthome.yp.ca/neighbourhoods/hamilton-homeside/23963/#introduction