How sustainable tree planting was integrated along Roncesvalles

With a distance roughly a kilometer and a half, a dateline spanning close to 150 years, a strong Polish lineage but a Spanish birthright;  Roncesvalles Village, attracts more Arts Cultural Urbanites per capita, than any other Toronto Neighbourhood.

Radiating off every heavily tree canopied street are “redone Four Squares” that are highly sought after by perspective home buyers. Eventually, the Roncesvalles commercial district will become a leading example of how community and urban planning had combined resources and ideas. This collaboration helped create a long term strategy for sustainable tree planting. The street’s trees used to be in concrete coffins which restricted the natural growth of the roots (see  Root and crown structure), and now they are all in continuous soil trenches.

Sustainable urban tree planting is all about:

  • planting native species that easily thrive in the local environment;
  • growing them  in a continuous soil trench which enables root expansion;1
  • enabling the expansion of the overhead canopy, which serves as a climate control regulator by providing deciduous shade in the summer and solar heat in the winter;
  • and finally, during daylight hours, the trees serve as environmental lungs because they consume a multitude of carbon gasses, including carbon dioxide2, which is one of the most acknowledged contributors to climate change.

Having a large number of trees along our street also helps regulate storm sewage overflow. Surface water from rain, that would normally have gone down the drain, are providing life sustaining nourishment to street trees. Native species of trees anticipate the region’s high and low precipitation cycles, and shouldn’t require additional watering.

The presence of street trees eliminates the possibility of overflowing of City Water Treatment Plants, which often contaminate the shoreline of Lake Ontario, because now these trees are consuming the very water that would have gone through the City’s sewage system.  This is why it has become mandatory for every home’s downspouts, to be disconnected.

In addition to ecological stewardship, consider all the future autumn strolls, envision the delightful brilliant fall colours, the burst of spring greens, seasonal blossoms, and inviting seating areas to relax among the trees and watch the world go by. Now we can fully appreciate the promise of those life sustaining young trees and the extra care that went into their planting and now their maintenance.


  1. Continuous Soil Trench Designs from the Urban Toronto Design Streetscape Manual 2009: 1) Precast Concrete Planter Cover and Concrete Sidewalk; 2) Open Planting Bed and Concrete Sidewalk . [PDF 1232K]
  2. Carbon dioxide comes from every living thing including trees at night and when they are dormant. During the day, they give off oxygen. We need oxygen. The burning of fossil fuels is the most popular method of technology that powers vehicle and heating consumption. But, the burning of fossil fuels causes significant damage to our health and the environment.  One day fossil fuels will be depleted.

Lessons Learned

This post is part of our Lessons Learned series drawn from initial discussions and decisions by Roncesvalles Renewed members and guests viewed with 20/20 hindsight after implementation.

3 thoughts on “How sustainable tree planting was integrated along Roncesvalles

  1. We live in the Roncy area and watched the street renewal process. Aside from the wonderful projects discussed here with consideration for the environment, trees and lifestyle, no consideration was made to make Roncy neighbourhood more accessible. Stores & restaurants which had step-ups (and they are numerous)… are still not accessible after the renewal. That is a huge oversight. Frankly I don’t understand how millions can be spent without consideration for people in wheelchairs, scooters or walkers. I did mention this to RR organizers in past, the response was: ‘it was not part of our mandate.’ Sad isn’t it?

    • I have been thinking about Pincente’s comment, and I ‘d like to speak to you directly, about some of my ideas on how to make Roncy even more accessible, and welcoming to people with disabilities.

  2. Roncesvalles Renewed did raise the question of accessibility repeatedly, and our continued advocacy is probably why the City finally agreed to level out the multi-level sidewalk after telling us for years it couldn’t be done. And our new streetcar stops are the most accessible in Toronto.

    As a group of volunteer community members, Roncesvalles Renewed has no power to compel private businesses to make their businesses more accessible. Whoever you were speaking with should have encouraged you to contact someone with the power to do something about it, likely at the provincial level.

    I have found that if there is something I want championed at a community level, I need to get involved and be willing to take on part of this job. I can’t just stand back and expect my neighbours to do it.

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