Charlottetown community gathers to brainstorm ideas for tree reclamation projects

A community open house to gather input and ideas for tree reclamation projects around the city is just the start, says Katrina Cristall, Charlottetown’s climate action officer.   (Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC - image credit)
A community open house to gather input and ideas for tree reclamation projects around the city is just the start, says Katrina Cristall, Charlottetown’s climate action officer. (Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC - image credit)

Downed and damaged trees, uprooted stumps and piles of branches have become common sights around P.E.I. in the wake of post-tropical storm Fiona, and now the City of Charlottetown is looking for ways to turn those trees into something useful.

Close to a dozen people gathered at the Charlottetown library Wednesday evening for a community open house to share ideas and suggestions on what the city could do with the pieces of trees that were lost.

Using them to heat homes, turning them into wood chips for gardening projects, finding ways to incorporate them into public art projects and converting the wood into furniture were among some of the suggestions shared at the tree reclamation open house.

"We just recognize how many trees have been lost and how much opportunity there is to rebuild from what we've lost,'' said Katrina Cristall, climate action officer for the city of Charlottetown.

Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC
Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC

Cristall said the city has been hearing many great ideas from within the community of ways to repurpose trees and "turn them into something useful or beautiful."

Wednesday's open house is just one of the ways the city is hoping to tap into that creativity and find out what people want to see done, she said.

Residents share ideas

Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC
Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC

Jill Lightwood from Charlottetown said she has a close affinity with trees, and was happy to have the opportunity to compare ideas with people who share a similar passion.

"I feel they add to our physical, mental, spiritual health," Lightwood said, adding she wants to see as many trees as possible saved and turned into anything useful.

For Dylan Roche, a woodworker based in Pownal, the downed trees have brought up mixed emotions.

"It's exciting to have the opportunity to work with not only such old trees, but trees that are local here and that you might have driven by hundreds of times," he said.

It's also disappointing to see all the devastation, Roche added, saying he had never seen anything like it.

Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC
Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC

Since the storm, he's been gathering several large elm trees to turn into furniture, and even took a few requests from neighbours hoping to repurpose their fallen trees.

Roche said turning the downed trees into furniture — whether it's building large cabinets made of elm trees or play structures made out of evergreen logs — is a good way to use the trees for more than just firewood.

Art highlights importance of urban forests 

Four art projects that are part of the Rooted in Art initiative were also mounted as part of the open house event.

Rooted in Art typically sees artworks placed on trees throughout Charlottetown. But because of the significant tree damage, the art pieces will be installed at the downtown Charlottetown library for the next two weeks instead.

Hannah Gehrels is one of the artists whose work is being showcased.

A project co-ordinator for P.E.I. Wild Child, Gehrels said their art piece was inspired to showcase the importance of protecting urban forests for future generations.

Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC
Safiyah Marhnouj/CBC

Gehrels said they were still adjusting to seeing the significant damage and tree loss across the Island.

"It was really, really devastating for me to see all the trees down and how much the parks that we've been playing in for the last five or six years totally changed," they said.

Gehrels said they heard many great ideas for what the city could do with the damaged trees, and suggested leaving some of those trees untouched in the forests.

"Maybe not right in downtown Charlottetown, but when possible leaving some of the trees also in the forest to let the critters eat them and the carbon sequester back into the soil," they said.

In next steps, Cristall said the city will be going through the ideas brought up at Wednesday's open house to see what is feasible to put into action. There is no current timeline for when some of the suggestions might be carried out, but Cristall said the city will "assess that as we go."