The City of Toronto has been named as the recipient of the 2015 Ontario Wood Award. The award recognizes organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to promoting and supporting local wood programs and producers.

The City of Toronto was recognized for their initiatives to promote locally produced wood products and urban forestry services and for their innovative programs to repurpose wood from diseased city trees into usable lumber.

The award was presented by Forests Ontario and Ontario Wood, a buy local brand of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, at Forests Ontario’s 2015 Conference at the Nottawasaga Inn in Alliston, Ontario to Carol Walker and Rob McMonagle, who accepted the award on behalf of the City of Toronto. The Forests Ontario annual conference is Ontario’s largest forestry conference, bringing together forestry practitioners, conservation authorities, government, students and stakeholders to discuss timely issues affecting the future of the province’s forests.

“The City of Toronto is very proud and pleased to receive this year’s Ontario Wood Award,” said Mayor John Tory. “This award highlights the dedication and innovation shown by City staff to utilize Toronto’s trees at the end of their life in order to create valued products that support the growth of the local design and wood craft industries.”

In Toronto alone, approximately 5,100 companies specialize in wood-related products and services, employing over 25,000 workers altogether. Among the City of Toronto’s efforts to support the local wood industry is the Nashdene Yard, a pilot project launched in December 2014, to repurpose wood waste into useable lumber from city trees that have been infested by disease or irreparably damaged. The City’s Economic Development & Culture and Parks, Forestry & Recreation divisions are exploring the Nashdene Yard as both a potential revenue source and cost-saving opportunity for Toronto. Lumber from the yard can potentially be sold to businesses or used in municipal applications.

Rob McMonagle, senior advisor on the green economy at the City of Toronto, notes that repurposing lumber could be an important opportunity in the face of the Emerald Ash Borer. “Modest estimates say that 8.4% of the city’s trees will be lost to the Emerald Ash Borer, which means we’ll be dealing with a significant amount of wood waste. Projects like the Nashdene Yard are pointing us to a solution to this issue that cuts down on that waste and supports local businesses.”

The City of Toronto is also responsible for developing the Urban Wood Directory, a resource for connecting Torontobusinesses and residents to local producers and urban forest management services such as craftspeople, millwork, carpenters, and arborists. The Directory provides a wealth of information on services that residents can access to repurpose dead trees and also to rehabilitate damaged trees.

“Of course most Torontonians don’t have a background in forestry,” said McMonagle. “The Urban Wood Directory was created to bring a greater awareness to the services available for tree care in the city and to promote the many local businesses producing one-of-a-kind products from local wood. With a simple resource like this we’re aiming to support both healthier urban forests and a stronger local economy.”

The City of Toronto also collaborated with IIDEX Canada and Ontario Wood to host the 2nd annual IIDEX Woodshop, which brought together local producers and craftspeople to create innovative and market-ready prototypes from discarded ash trees in an attempt to reduce the number of ash trees sent to landfills. Forests Ontario also collaborated with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the City of Toronto on the production of theHomeowner’s Guide, an informational booklet designed to provide practical advice to homeowner’s on how to maintain trees following ice storm damage.

Forests Ontario commends the City of Toronto’s Urban Forestry Branch and the Department of Economic Development and Culture for their leadership on these innovative projects and looks forward to continuing to work with the City on fostering a sustainable and prosperous future.