The city’s historic and scenic eastern gateway into the community will be given new life — quite literally — with the replacement of dead and dying trees along First Street North later this fall.
Thanks largely to a grant from the Canadian National Railway, in partnership with Communities in Bloom and Tree Canada, the city will plant 60 native spruce trees, most of which will enhance the median on First Street, located south of the intersection with Veterans Way.
The rest of the alloted new trees will also replace those that were cut down along the eastern lane to the north of Veterans Lane near Assiniboine Community College during road redevelopment on the hill in 2009.
"We’re looking at that whole area as part of our First Street Restoration," Brandon community services director Perry Roque told the Sun yesterday. "There will be a whole event happening up there. That information isn’t firmed up yet. We hope to have that information out at the end of June."
Until recently, First Street North was considered one of Brandon’s most attractive gateways. But due to the flood of 2011 and other "biotic and abiotic stressors," as per the city’s grant application, many of the trees on the median are now dead or dying — at least 30 as of August 2013.
Last year, the Sun attempted to discern who was responsible for the median’s maintenance, the city or the provincial government. At the time, we found some discrepancy between city staff and provincial officials, with Roque saying that the median and fir trees were looked after by Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation.
"We thought they were the province’s trees," Roque said. "We talked with the province and they said no, they’re actually the City of Brandon’s trees because they’re coming through a community."
A provincial spokesman confirmed on Thursday in an email that the province considers the area a "designated highway" and has a longstanding practice in place "for municipalities to
co-ordinate and fund landscaping, sidewalks, trees, etc., as they are considered municipal services.
"The province constructs the highway and maintains pavement markings and highway signing for route continuity."
With the question of jurisdiction cleared up, the city decided to remedy the situation. Earlier this spring, city crews cut down dead trees on the median that posed a danger to passing motorists. It also applied for funding with CN’s EcoConnexions — From the Ground Up grant program.
According to CN’s website, the objective of the program is to promote the greening of municipal properties across Canada, especially areas in close proximity to rail lines.
"CN, and its partners Tree Canada and Communities in Bloom, help Canadian municipalities establish tree planting and green space enhancement initiatives in a sustainable, environmentally responsible manner."
Tree Canada and Communities in Bloom rate each application and present a ranked list of programs to CN, which selects the final candidates. CN’s two partners then provide guidance in the achievements of the chosen projects.
"We’re known for community involvement," Communities in Bloom spokesperson Vivian Shum said Thursday, "and Tree Canada has the expertise with trees."
The City of Brandon was one of 30 chosen out of 191 applications for 2014. Brandon’s project will receive a grant of $21,350, and as part of the program requirements, the city will match that grant by providing the labour to do all the installation.
"They’re buying the trees, and we’re doing other things in the community — installing the trees, preparing the land and everything for the installation," Roque said. "(But) it’s not just about going out and planting a tree when you get these grants. It’s about the education side too."
The city intends to make an event out of the tree replacements, what Roque called a "celebration" to promote environmentally friendly aspects of tree planting in the community.
The event, which is likely to take place in mid-September, will include nature walks, composting, greenhouse tours and planting, all involving community and volunteer involvement.
"I think this is a great project for the City of Brandon," Roque said. "It’s great for everybody and it really addresses that entranceway into the city."
Along with the City of Brandon’s First Street Restoration project, two other Westman communities received grant funding from CN’s EcoConnexions —From the Ground Up program.
The Town of Gladstone received $4,400 to create a sound barrier using an assortment of trees, shrubs and hedges to aid in offsetting the noise generated by trains. According to its application, the town also plans to create a "green space courtyard" with the aim of "creating a calming, green space for community members to congregate."
The other funding recipient was the Rural Municipality of Miniota, which will receive $7,271 for its Miniota Community Greening project.
Miniota Greening will involve planting several mature trees at certain locations within the town, a shelterbelt near the Miniota School, and a 300-foot strip on the north end of the community near a proposed subdivision.
Communities in Bloom spokeswoman Vivian Shum says as of this week, the program is receiving applications for the 2015 program year. Deadline for applications is Oct. 30, 2014.
Successful communities are eligible for grants of up to $25,000 each.
» Brandon Sun