Benefits of Urban Forests
by Stephanie Tencer
from: At the Forks, Volume 7, Issue 2, Summer 2000
serious respiratory health concerns as well as the growing costs
of construction and maintenance of roads have led planners all
over the world to re-examine transportation options.
In Europe, many cities are actively working to reduce vehicle
use by narrowing roadways, introducing traffic calming measures,
and expanding transit, cycling and other alternative means of
Traffic flow and congestion are also issues in Toronto and most
recently have generated controversy in South Leaside, where
proposals have been revived to construct an extension of Redway
Road through a forested portion of the Don Valley called Crother's
These plans would not only be an inappropriate solution to the
traffic concerns of South Leaside residents, but also have serious
economic repercussions for the vital services currently provided
to citizens by urban green spaces. Although often not given
adequate recognition, Crother's Woods and other forested areas
are vital components of our city infrastructure. The Don Valley
woodlands and natural areas do more than provide habitat for
beautiful plants and animals and give us numerous recreational
opportunities. Environmental Significant Areas such as Crother's
Woods also help to purify the air, clean our water and combat
against climate change.
The current proposal to extend Redway Road through Crother's
Woods to Bayview Avenue and to connect Eglinton Avenue near
Leslie to Redway Road at Millwood would replace an efficiently
functioning piece of existing infrastructure with an ill-considered
New roadways inevitably attract new traffic and rapidly become
as congested as those they were intended to relieve.
The table below highlights the many ways in which Crother's
Woods benefits residents and contrasts it with what the extension
of Redway Road would likely bring to the community.
REDWAY ROAD EXTENSION
QUALITY: Toronto Health Department says 1,000 people
in the city die prematurely each year because of air pollution.
areas supply oxygen and filter dirt and smog-forming pollutants
from the air.
vehicles are responsible for more than 50% of smog-causing
nitrogen oxides and 30% of smog-causing volatile organic
compounds in the air.
QUALITY/QUANTITY: High stormwater flows pollute our
rivers and beaches and cause basement flooding.
areas absorb stormwater helping to minimize the threat of
flooding, and filter water that runs off into our lakes
impermeable surface of new roads causes additional stormwater
to burden the existing sewer system and introduces grease,
salt and other pollutants into the rivers.
Stress imposed by noise pollution is a growing concern
areas act as a sound buffer, protecting neighbourhoods from
traffic is a significant source of urban noise pollution
WEATHER:WEATHER: Environment Canada estimates the
number of days in Ontario with temperatures above 30 degrees
Celsius will likely jump from 10 to 50 days per year if
carbon dioxide concentrations double.
areas absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas which contributes
to climate change. Green areas cool the environment through
evapotranspiration, which helps to counteract the hotter
temperatures found in cities.
surfaces such as asphalt roads absorb the sun's rays, contributing
to the hotter temperatures found in cities. More traffic
induced by more roads increases emissions of major greenhouse
gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
Habitat loss and degradation is a major stress on wildlife
and natural ecosystems.
Woods is a designated Environmentally Significant Area
and home to mature Carolinian species and regionally rare
Redway Road will result in the irreparable destruction and
disturbance of Crother's Woods habitat.
VALUES:VALUES: House prices vary considerably depending
locations next to ravines, parks or other green spaces is
a major selling point.
of nearby green areas has been shown to significantly reduce
residential property values.
In choosing the best method for addressing traffic congestion
in our neighbourhoods, we must do so in a way that complements
our existing infrastructure, whether it is natural or built.
This year's report of the Toronto Environmental Task Force concluded
congestion is worsening because of an increased reliance
on single occupancy vehicles and an increased number of
congestion in Toronto causes an estimated $1 billion annually
in delays, pollution and other negative impacts;
of the number of vehicles on the road, commuters are spending
more time on the road, traveling farther, and at slower
speeds than 15 years ago;
vehicles are a major cause of smog, a major emitter of carbon
monoxide, and a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions;
from motor vehicles causes increased rates of sickness and
death and about $646 million a year in increased health
amounts of land are dedicated to motor vehicles with about
40% of the land in the GTA used for roads and parking lots.
These findings suggest that land use and transportation planning
must move away from the traditional car-centred approach.
The proposal to extend Redway Road clearly undermines the many
benefits of urban green space and as a result would do more
harm than good. Crother's Woods is a vital component of our
urban infrastructure and a much-needed natural refuge from our
cityscape. Let's keep it that way!