Edmonton, Alberta demonstrates the revitalizing power of urban trees

A new branch of research is digging into how green spaces with numerous trees help improve our spirits and also make our neighbourhoods safer, better places.

All this has implications as we design new neighbourhoods and care for our existing tree canopy. In the early 1900s, the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada planted trees on our boulevards to attract newcomers.

Edmonton now has over 290,000 publicly owned trees, mainly green ash, American elm, plus blue and white spruce, valued at more than $1.2 billion. The average boulevard tree is valued at $2,400 to $8,000, with our biggest elm trees worth as much as $65,000.

But the wealth of trees is in how they improve us.

The return on investment of a tree can’t be measured in the way that another 100 parking lot spaces or another building might. And yet we attend to those things and ignore the vegetation at our peril,” says landscape architecture professor William Sullivan of the University of Illinois.

Sullivan has been studying the impact of trees and green spaces for more than 20 years. He’s found four key benefits:

  1. trees provide an incentive for people to get out and walk more
  2. they reduce stress
  3. they refresh a tired mind
  4. they help increase local social ties.

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