Calgary’s urban forest is a vital component of our city’s ecosystem, offering numerous environmental, social, and economic benefits. With around 7 million trees, Calgary aims to increase its tree canopy coverage to 9% by 2026. This comprehensive guide will help homeowners navigate the world of urban forestry, from understanding current canopy coverage to participating in tree planting initiatives.  


Benefits of Trees in Calgary

Trees offer a myriad of benefits, from improving air quality to enhancing property values. They provide shade during hot summers, reduce stormwater runoff, and contribute to our mental well-being. A healthy tree canopy is vital for climate resilience, sequestering carbon, and supporting local biodiversity.

Environmental Benefits

  • Air Quality: Trees filter pollutants, improving air quality.
  • Carbon Sequestration: Trees absorb carbon dioxide, helping combat climate change.
  • Cooling Effects: Trees provide shade, reducing urban heat islands.

Social and Economic Benefits

  • Property Value: Homes with mature trees tend to have higher property values.
  • Mental Well-being: Green spaces contribute to reduced stress and improved mental health.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: Trees enhance the beauty of our neighborhoods..

Do I Need Permission to Cut Down a Tree on My Property in Calgary?

In Calgary, removing a tree on your property often requires a permit from city officials. This regulation ensures that tree removal is conducted responsibly, preserving the urban canopy and maintaining ecological balance. Depending on the type, size, and location of the tree, the permit requirements may vary. Homeowners are encouraged to consult the City of Calgary's guidelines or speak with an arborist to determine the specific requirements for their situation.

What is the Best Tree for Privacy in Calgary?

When choosing a tree for privacy, several species are particularly well-suited to the local climate. Here are some top recommendations:

  1. Swedish Columnar Aspen: Known for its fast growth and tall, narrow form, this tree is ideal for creating a dense privacy screen. It thrives in Calgary’s climate and requires minimal maintenance once established.

  2. North Pole Arborvitae: This evergreen tree offers year-round privacy with its dense foliage. It grows well in a variety of soil conditions and is resistant to pests, making it a reliable choice for homeowners.

  3. Emerald Green Arborvitae: Similar to the North Pole Arborvitae, this tree provides excellent coverage with its lush, green foliage. It’s perfect for smaller spaces as it grows tall and narrow, fitting well in tight areas without sacrificing privacy.

These trees can be strategically planted to create a natural barrier, enhancing both privacy and the aesthetic appeal of your property. 

Trees That Can Cause Problems with Plumbing and Foundations

Certain tree species are known to cause issues with plumbing and foundations due to their extensive root systems. Trees like poplars, willows, and silver maples have roots that seek out water sources aggressively. If planted too close to your home, these roots can invade sewer lines, water pipes, and even the foundation, causing significant damage. Homeowners should be mindful of the following:

  • Avoid planting these trees close to buildings: Ensure sufficient space for root growth.
  • Regularly inspect plumbing systems: Check for cracks or leaks that could attract roots.
  • Consult an arborist: Get professional advice on safe planting distances and tree maintenance.

Can Poplar/Aspen Trees Break Foundations of Buildings?

Poplars and aspens have aggressive, thirsty root systems that can pose a threat to foundations and plumbing. If there are cracks or leaks in your foundation or piping, these roots may infiltrate, causing damage. However, in dry conditions, the risk is minimized. To prevent issues:

  • Plant at a safe distance: Keep these trees away from buildings and underground utilities.
  • Regular maintenance: Check for signs of root intrusion and address any leaks promptly.
  • Professional consultation: Seek advice from an arborist for safe planting practices.

Do I Need a Permit to Remove a Tree in Calgary?

Depending on the type, size, and location of the tree, and whether it's on public or private land, you may need a permit. It's important to consult the City of Calgary's guidelines or speak with an arborist to ensure compliance with local regulations.

When is the Best Time for Tree Trimming?

Generally, the dormant season (late fall to early spring) is ideal for most tree species. Trimming during this period minimizes stress on the tree and reduces the risk of disease. However, some pruning may be necessary at other times to address safety concerns or specific tree health issues.

Tree Removal Costs in Calgary

Tree removal costs in Calgary can vary widely based on the size and location of the tree, as well as the complexity of the removal process. Here’s a breakdown of average costs:

TaskAverage Cost*Lowest Reported*Highest Reported*
Stump Grinding $1,200 $200 $3,000
Stump Removal $1,000 $100 $3,000
Tree Removal $1,200 $100 $15,000+

*Costs can vary based on specific circumstances and additional services required.

Current Tree Canopy Coverage

Calgary’s current tree canopy covers 8.25% of the city. The goal is to increase this to 9% by 2026. Various communities have experienced changes in canopy coverage from 2012 to 2022:

Image Source

calgary tree map

Top Tree Species for Calgary

Calgary's unique climate requires resilient tree species. Here are some top picks:

Tree NameTypeSize at MaturityGrowth RateBest Growing ConditionsFeatures
Green Ash Deciduous 18m tall, 12m spread Medium to Fast Full sun, moist soil Hardy, tolerates extreme climates, prone to pests
Trembling Aspen Deciduous 15m tall, 9m spread Fast Full sun, tolerates dry conditions Adaptable, smooth white bark, high maintenance
Paper Birch Deciduous 18m tall, 11m spread Fast Full sun, well-drained soil Recognizable white bark, attracts wildlife
Ohio Buckeye Deciduous 9m tall, 9m spread Medium Full sun/part shade, moist soil Brilliant red fall foliage, prone to leaf issues
American Elm Deciduous 25m tall, 12m spread Medium to Fast Full to partial sun, moist soil Large canopy, at risk for Dutch Elm Disease
Brandon Elm Deciduous 15m tall, 6m spread Fast Full sun, tolerant of pollution Compact elm, bright yellow fall colors
Dropmore Linden Deciduous 10m tall, 7m spread Slow to Medium Full sun, well-drained soil Hardy, fragrant flowers, attracts pollinators
Manitoba Maple Deciduous 9m tall, 8m spread Fast Wide soil adaptability, full sun Fast-growing, provides quick shelter
Bur Oak Deciduous 14m tall, 7m spread Slow Deep, moist soils, full sun Drought-tolerant, strong tap roots
Balsam Poplar Deciduous 25m tall, 5m spread Fast Full sun, well-drained soil Fast-growing, large canopy, short lifespan
Northwest Poplar Deciduous 25m tall, 20m spread Fast Wide soil adaptability, full sun Excellent shade, windbreaks, aggressive roots

These trees are selected for their ability to thrive in Calgary's variable weather conditions, providing shade, aesthetic appeal, and environmental benefits. For more details, visit City of Calgary's Tree Guide.

Top Communities for Tree Canopy Growth

Certain communities in Calgary have seen significant growth in their tree canopies. These neighborhoods have benefited from concerted efforts by residents and city programs to plant and care for trees.

  • CFB - Lincoln Park: +20%
  • Coventry Hills: +17%
  • Royal Oak: +15%
  • Tuscany: +15%

Communities Facing Tree Canopy Challenges

On the other hand, some communities have experienced a decline in tree canopy coverage. This can be attributed to factors such as aging trees, urban development, and inadequate maintenance. Identifying these challenges is the first step towards finding effective solutions.

  • Shawnee Slopes: -37%
  • CFB - Currie: -27%
  • South Calgary: -21%
  • Greenwood/Greenbriar: -21%

City Initiatives and Resources

Calgary has several initiatives to support tree planting and maintenance. Programs like the Branching Out Program help residents participate in enhancing the urban forest. The city also offers resources for tree care and planting through various workshops and educational events

Poplars in Calgary

Poplar trees are a familiar sight in Calgary, planted extensively for their rapid growth and ability to thrive in the city's challenging climate. Historically, they were a popular choice for creating shade and enhancing green spaces quickly. Their adaptability to Calgary's soil and environmental conditions made them a staple in urban landscaping.

Problems with Poplars

While poplars offer many benefits, they also present several challenges:

  • Roots: Poplar roots are known for being aggressive. They can damage sidewalks, driveways, and underground utilities. Their quest for water often leads to problems with sewer lines and foundations.
  • Fluff: In spring, poplars produce significant amounts of fluff, which can clog gutters, air conditioning units, and trigger allergies.
  • Leaves: Poplars shed a large number of leaves in the fall, requiring extensive cleanup efforts.

For detailed information on managing poplar trees, you can visit the following resources:

Removing Poplar Trees

There are specific guidelines for removing poplar trees in Calgary:

  • When to Remove: Poplar trees should be removed if they are dead, diseased, or pose a safety risk. Approval may also be granted if the tree causes significant property damage.
  • How to Remove: Removal must be conducted by a certified arborist to ensure safety and compliance with city regulations. The process typically involves cutting down the tree and grinding the stump to prevent regrowth.
  • City-Owned vs. Private Property: For trees on city property, contact Calgary Parks through 311 for removal permissions. Homeowners are responsible for trees on private property but must follow city guidelines to avoid fines and ensure proper disposal.

How to Handle Tree-Related Issues

Cleaning up tree debris is essential for maintaining a healthy urban forest. Here's a quick guide for residents:

  • Community Cleanup Events: Participate in community cleanups hosted by various community associations. Check Community Cleanup Events for the nearest event.
  • Green Cart Program: Place smaller tree debris in your green cart for composting. Ensure branches are less than 6 inches in diameter and 4 feet in length. For overflow, use paper yard waste bags.
  • Avoid Illegal Dumping: Avoid creating unofficial dump sites in parks or other areas. Illegal dumping can result in a $250 fine.

Who to Contact for Tree Services

If you notice a tree that needs attention, such as one that looks unhealthy or poses a risk, knowing who to contact is crucial:

  • City Property vs. Private Property: Trees on city property are managed by Calgary Parks. For concerns about city trees, contact 311. For trees on private property, homeowners are responsible for their care and maintenance.
  • Reporting Issues: Report hazardous or unhealthy trees on city property through the City of Calgary Tree Contact Information page.

Calgary's Urban Forest History and future

The conservation of Calgary’s historic streetscapes is crucial in preserving the city’s heritage. The conservation plan covers 27 historic streets in some of Calgary’s oldest communities, including Bridgeland, Cliff Bungalow/Mission, Crescent Heights, Elbow Park, Elboya, Hillhurst, Inglewood, Mount Royal, Ramsay, Rosedale, and Scarboro. These streetscapes are remnants of early 20th-century urban planning and landscape design influenced by the City Beautiful Movement, which aimed to introduce beautification and harmony in urban spaces.

Historic Streetscapes Conservation


Designation is a critical component of a conservation strategy. All 27 historic streetscapes are eligible for Municipal Historic Resource designation. The benefits include:

  • Legal Protection: Ensures retention of historical significance for future generations.
  • Commemoration: Increases public awareness and builds intrinsic value among Calgarians.
  • Access to Grant Funds: Eligible for 50% matched funding for ongoing conservation from the Alberta Historical Resources Foundation.

Historical Context

The conservation of Calgary’s historic streetscapes preserves the city’s heritage. These 27 streetscapes, located in some of Calgary’s oldest communities, were influenced by the City Beautiful Movement, which promoted urban beautification and harmony.

Communities with Historic Streetscapes

Bridgeland 8th St. N.E., from 1st Ave. to 5th Ave. N.E. (1942)
Cliff Bungalow Mission 5A St. S.W., from 17 Ave. to Royal Ave. S.W. (1915)
Crescent Heights 5th Ave. N.E., from Edmonton Tr. to 2nd St. N.E. (1932)
  7th Ave. N.E., from Centre St. N to 2nd St. N.E. (1929)
  8th Ave. N.E., from Centre St. N. to 2nd St. N.E. (1929)
  9th Ave. N., from 1st St. N.E. to 1st St. N.W. (1929)
  10th Ave. N., from 1st St. N.E. to 1st St. N.W. (1930)
  11th Ave. N., from 1st St. N.E. to 1st St. N.W. (1930)
Elbow Park Riverdale Ave. S.W., from 9th St. to 10th St. S.W. (1929)
  Sifton Blvd. S.W., from Elbow Dr. to 7th St. S.W. (1929)
Elboya Riverdale Ave. S.W., from 5A St. to Elbow Drive S.W. (1929)
Hillhurst 6th Ave. N.W. medians, from 16th St. to 18th St. N.W. (1929)
  11th St. N.W. median, from 5th Ave. N.W. to Riley Park (1919)
  Bowness Road N.W. medians, from 14th St. to 17th St. N.W. (1932)
Inglewood 9th Ave. S.E., from 21st St. to 22nd St. S.E. (1930)
Mount Royal Frontenac Ave. S.W., from Carleton St. to Wolfe St. S.W. (1929)
  Montcalm Cres. S.W., from Quebec Ave. to Frontenac Ave. S.W. (1930)
  Montreal Ave. S.W., from 12th St. to Wolfe St. S.W. (1930)
  Quebec Ave. S.W., from Montcalm Cres. to Wolfe St. S.W. (1930)
Ramsay 9th St. S.E., from 17th Ave. to Adelaide Ave. S.E. (1929)
Rosedale 4A St. N.W., from Alexander Cres. N.W. to 16th Ave. N.W. (1932)
  5th St. N.W., from Crescent Road N.W. to 16th Ave. N.W. (1932)
  6A St. N.W., from Crescent Road N.W. to 16th Ave. N.W. (1932)
  7th St. N.W., from Alexander Cres. N.W. to 16th Ave. N.W. (1932)
Scarboro Senlac St. S.W., from Shelbourne St. to Superior Ave. S.W. (1930)
  Sharon Ave. S.W., from 18th St. to 17th St. S.W. (1930)
  Shelbourne St. S.W., from 17th Ave. to Superior Ave. S.W. (1927)

Proposed Conservation Program

Calgary Parks plans to restore these streetscapes by replacing non-historic vegetation with historically appropriate species and engaging the community. Key guidelines include:

  • Planting historic species where trees or shrubs are missing.
  • Retaining large healthy non-historic trees until they become unsafe.
  • Moving smaller healthy trees to other locations.
  • Replacing unhealthy trees and shrubs with historic species.
ActionQuantityCost per ItemTotal Cost
New trees 73 $300 $21,600
New shrubs 437 $50 $22,250
Moved trees 83 $200 $16,600
Removed shrubs 57 $100 $5,700
Total Cost     $66,150

Importance of Designations

Designations protect the historical integrity of streetscapes, commemorate their significance, and provide access to grants for ongoing conservation. This ensures that future generations of Calgarians can enjoy these historic landscapes.

Role of Key Figures

William Pearce: An inspector for the Dominion Land Agencies, Pearce envisioned Calgary as a city with grand boulevards and park spaces. He established the first tree farm in Western Canada, promoting the beautification of Calgary through tree planting.

William Reader: As Calgary’s Superintendent of Parks and Cemeteries from 1913 to 1942, Reader significantly influenced the city’s landscape. He focused on developing streetscapes and parks, and his work continues to shape Calgary's urban forest.

Conservation Strategy

The conservation strategy for these historic streetscapes involves:

  1. Maintaining Historical Integrity: Ensuring the retention of historical elements like the original plant material and spatial organization.
  2. Minimal Intervention: Adopting an approach that calls for minimal intervention, replacing vegetation only when necessary.
  3. Community Engagement: Engaging with the community to garner support for conservation efforts.
  4. Replacement and Planting: Replacing missing or unhealthy trees and shrubs with historically appropriate species.

Challenges and Opportunities

Calgary faces challenges in expanding its tree canopy due to tree losses, climate changes, and resource constraints. The city aims to plant 7,500 new trees annually to meet its 9% canopy coverage goal, but current plantings fall short at approximately 5,600 per year.

Importance of the 9% Canopy Goal

Achieving a 9% tree canopy is significant for several reasons:

  • Environmental Benefits: Trees improve air quality, reduce urban heat islands, and provide habitats for wildlife.
  • Social Benefits: Green spaces enhance community well-being, offering areas for recreation and relaxation.
  • Economic Benefits: Trees increase property values and reduce energy costs by providing shade and wind protection.

Community Insights From Reddit

From Reddit discussions, residents have shared valuable insights and experiences:

  • Community Engagement: Residents are encouraged to call 311 to request tree planting in their neighborhoods. For instance, one user mentioned the success of specifying tree types, like the popular Evans Sour Cherry.
  • Challenges with Tree Maintenance: Some residents expressed frustration over the city’s handling of tree maintenance, highlighting issues like the death of newly planted trees due to inadequate care.

Posted by Cody Tritter on
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