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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

Oaks on Stokes – Arbour strategy keeps it green at CAMH

Recent studies show a significant positive impact of a nearby tree canopy on a person’s mental health.

With the redevelopment of CAMH’s Queen Street site on track , and new complex care and emergency buildings planned for 2020, trees are still top of mind in the planning process.

CAMH’s arbour strategy brings together several key themes, says Doug Campbell, Senior Project Manager, CAMH Redevelopment Office. These include renewal of the tree canopy, connecting green spaces, mixing diverse species, and creating soil-space breathing room for future tree health.

Doug Campbell
A renewing canopy: Doug Campbell notes that many young trees have now been planted along Stokes Street close to this mature grove.

Renewing the canopy

Doug is quick to challenge the belief that “every tree is sacred.”  Rather, he says, “the best arbour strategy is a healthy and constantly renewing urban forest.”

A canopy of mostly older trees may contain some diseased or “danger” trees. Older canopies may also blot out sunshine that allows younger trees to grow.

Tough decisions sometimes need to be made to take down older trees, Doug says. He points out that the removal of some old Manitoba Maples near the current Sunshine Garden (a joint initiative of Foodshare and CAMH) has stimulated growth of middle-aged trees, such as Oak trees, that were fighting for sunlight.

Connecting our green spaces

Looking at the future design for the Queen Site, Doug notes the relationship between the large Trinity Bellwoods Park to the north-east with CAMH’s mature Shaw Street Park and tree canopy.  This green corridor will continue southward and westward through the site when Adelaide Street is connected as an east-west corridor.

“We’re mindful to create and maintain green connections and nature views throughout the site -- knowing that the site is becoming more dense as the campus is integrated with the city,” says Doug. Some additional mature trees will need to come down when the new complex care and acute care buildings are being constructed. The new buildings will have inner courtyards with nature views.

Creating breathing room for trees

The redevelopment designs leave wide soil space to give new trees lots of breathing room – for their roots to grow wide and deep. This gives trees a fighting chance in a sometimes challenging urban environment.  Some young trees do not flourish and need to be replanted. Soil space gives them a better chance at survival.

This “breathing room” approach will be continued in the new green corridors in the next phase of redevelopment when new streets are created on the Queen site, Doug says.

Fostering tree diversity

Doug notes that some Ash trees on CAMH’s sites have not been immune to the Emerald Ash Borer – “the beetle that is killing thousands of Ash trees in Toronto.”

A key principle of CAMH’s Redevelopment Initiative is to plant diverse species of trees, which can beautify the site as well as prevent or resist major diseases such as those caused by the Ash beetle.

A quick tour of the site takes us past younger Maple, Hickory, Tulip, Locust, Plane, Walnut, Chestnut and Catalpa trees.

Within a given tree genus, CAMH also aims for diversity.  For example, the younger Oak trees planted along Stokes Street include several different varieties such as Scarlet, Red and Pin Oak trees, each with slightly different characteristics.

Let’s join Doug for a quick visual tour of some amazing trees at CAMH sites:

Bark of the plane tree
Hiding in Plane sight – The smooth and variegated bark of the Plane tree is a common sight in Europe. This young Plane tree is thriving near a more mature canopy just east of White Squirrel Way.

Young trees
Room to breathe: Young trees near Stokes Street and White Squirrel Way have plenty of soil space to let roots grow wide and deep.

Cone develops near pine trees
Pining for the light:  A cone develops on pine trees near one of CAMH’s Complex Mental Illness program units.

Young and old trees
Young and old trees mingle at the Shaw Street Park.

Squirrel at Shaw Park
A peanut in hand is worth two in the bush: A squirrel at the Shaw Street Park gets ready for winter

Several different varieties of Oak tree planted on Stokes Street
Oaks on Stokes – Several different varieties of Oak trees were planted to foster diversity and prevent disease.

We finish our tour at CAMH’s College/Russell St. site…

Peaceful walkway
Peaceful walkway: Trees and shrubs line the pathway between the College/Russell sites and create shade for the first floor and cafeteria at Russell Street.

shrubs create green tunnel
Green connections: Shrubs create a green tunnel under the purple canopy connecting the College and Russell Street sites – and a safe harbour for birds that enjoy the red berries in season.

tree healing
A healing environment – bark of a hardwood at the College Russell site shows the healing process from an earlier pruning.

CAMH Switchboard 416-535-8501
CAMH General Information Toronto: 416-595-6111 Toll Free: 1-800-463-6273
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Queen St.
1001 Queen St. W
Toronto, ON
M6J 1H4
Russell St.
33 Russell St.
Toronto, ON
M5S 2S1
College St.
250 College St.
Toronto, ON
M5T 1R8
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