The trees of the Queen’s University campus represent one of the major assets of the institution, similar in scale to that represented by its buildings and infrastructure. This living asset has contributed to Queen’s livability, image and character. The severe damage to the trees in the 1998 ice storm has made it clear that the unassisted survival of campus trees can no longer be taken for granted. The University needs to commit adequate resources to properly manage its urban forest. The ice storm also prompted the study of the urban forest as a separate component ahead of its parent study on grounds revitalization. The grounds study was intended to provide a comprehensive strategy for redeveloping the campus landscape in accordance with the 1994 Campus Plan principles and strategies. The urban forest study’s goals are to provide:
The study’s findings can be summed up in three main problems:
- An overview of the extent of damage to the tree cover, the chance of survival and repairs necessary to trees in the various sectors of the campus.
for replacement, improvement, and sustained management sector by sector.
The study concludes with the following recommendations:
- A poor growing environment for trees due to root zone compaction, destruction of the root system by construction activities, inadequate space for mature growth, trunk damage caused by bicycles and maintenance equipment, girdling roots killing Norway Maples, and irreparable structural damage from the ice storm.
- Inadequate regular maintenance such as pruning, cabling, fertilizing, watering, insect and disease control due to shrinking grounds budget.
- Poor planting design resulting in too much or too little planting, the wrong species or wrong location. For example, along the streets, campus edges and building frontages, tree plantings are inconsistent and incomplete. Species and spacing are inappropriate, with trees planted too close together or to buildings. Indiscriminate over-planting has also cluttered up open spaces and obscured building facades and sight lines needed for safety.
The main reconstruction projects are as follows:
- Set up a management team for long term urban forest improvement and maintenance.
- Set up a fund for remedial work to repair the worst of the damage and for an ongoing program of urban forest improvement and maintenance.
- Complete and maintain a thorough tree inventory.
- Initiate systematic improvements, beginning with immediate remedial work and replacements.
- Implement a continual maintenance program.
- Develop a comprehensive grounds revitalization strategy with detailed design for landscape reconstruction projects which require more than maintenance or replacement.
- Fund and reconstruct these landscapes.
- University Avenue should be a grand ceremonial boulevard with tall over-arching boulevard trees. The health of such trees (both existing and newly planted) is compromised by the extensive hard paving built to accommodate student crowds. However, if the double divided roadway were reduced to a single street without a median, space could be provided for wide pedestrian paving as well as areas of soft landscape to provide a healthy environment for large trees.
- The Arts Quadrangle is a hub of activity but a poor environment both for people and trees. Irrigated raised planters surrounded by seat walls would provide the necessary condition for healthy tree cover and amenities for pedestrians.
- The space between Grant and Ontario Halls would be improved by removing the dense row of evergreens and humanizing the extensive paved area by creating a central raised, seat-walled planter bed to contain deciduous trees.
Immediate remedial actions and an ongoing maintenance program are important. However, to ensure the long-term survival of the urban forest, the root of the problem, a hostile growing environment for trees, needs to be corrected. This will require comprehensive grounds improvements to return the urban forest on campus to its former glory.