Green infrastructure, such as an urban forest, has extensive abilities to integrate sustainability themes of human health and quality of life, regeneration of ecosystems, climate change resilience and economic savings as a result of improved synergies between the urban and natural environments. Green infrastructure was placed at the top of the Town’s planning agenda with a mandate to achieve 40% urban forest canopy coverage by 2057.
The North Oakville Urban Forest Strategic Management Plan investigated 4 000 ha of primarily agricultural land and established existing urban forest baseline and targets by land use. The plan determined that the town would not achieve its 40% urban forest canopy target if it was to use its current landscape and engineering standards. To properly measure health and vitality of this form of green infrastructure, urban forestry needed to be understood from its roots, including its location and placement, and be recognized with the same importance as other municipal services.
Dillon’s project team, in partnership with NRSI, reviewed and made recommendations for updating site development standards and landscape standards to ensure that Oakville has a self-sustaining urban forest and natural heritage system. The recommendations included updating the zoning by-law and site plan submission requirements, and site engineering and landscape standards to maximize ‘soft’ landscape areas and to ensure that measures, such as greening of parking lots and establishing viable streetscape plantings in highly urbanized commercial areas, are implemented.
The adopted standards include techniques that are being employed at a ‘lot level’ including engineered soil systems to support tree growth in paved areas (Silva-cell and structural soil), standards for landscape buffers that support ‘treatment train’ approaches to stormwater conveyance and best management practices for establishing compatible native landscapes.
The strategic management plan updated the Town’s planning process and developed new standards, as well as establishing a major shift in thinking of the significance of our urban forests creating a successful and implementable town-wide target. It was approved in 2012.
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