It happened in Calgary: Tree-mendous love for urban forest

















Calgary’s early settlers were eager to put down roots in the burgeoning burg by The Bow. But as Calgary grew from a fort to a town to a city, some things didn’t seem to be growing as naturally as the population. Namely, trees.

There were few trees in Calgary in the early days and they had to be purchased elsewhere and brought in for The City and citizens to plant. A railcar of maple trees was brought in from Manitoba in 1899 for citizens to purchase.

So resolute was The City’s desire to plant and grow trees, that in 1899 Council passed a bylaw relating to shade or ornamental trees. It stated: “All trees planted in the City shall be under the care and supervision of the Public Works Committee” and that “no person shall plant any tree, nor shall any person remove, cut down or injure any tree…without first obtaining permission in writing from the Chairman of the Public Works Committee.”

In the Spring of 1905, the City’s push to beautify the growing city with forestry saw spruce trees from the mountains brought in to sell to citizens at a cost of 10 cents a tree.

As evidenced by the beautiful canopies and majestic trunks in older communities, Calgarians love for trees never wavered. In 1967, a resident’s distress over a dying tree made its way to the Parks Dept. in the form of a 

poem. It read, in part:

I think I shall never see,

A tree as sick as you gave me.

Poems are made by fools like me,

In hopes you’ll give me a better tree.

Not to be outdone, clever Parks staff responded with some poetry of their own. Part of which reads:

We are sorry you received a tree

That was not as healthy as it should be.

Replacement this year is just too late,

So leave it with us ‘till ’68.

Trees are as cherished by The City and its citizens today as they were in those early, barren days. Each year, The City teams up with the Public and Catholic School Boards and the Landscape and Nursery Trades Association to mark Arbor Day. This year, the annual civic greening project will take place May 2. Each Grade 1 student in Calgary's schools receives a tree seedling to be take home and plant. To date, annual Arbor Day celebrations in Calgary have distributed an estimated 425,000 tree seedlings.