Fredericton working to bring back elm trees

Fredericton, once known as the City of Stately Elms before Dutch elm disease devastated North American trees, is working on bringing back those shady streets.

For the past five years, the city has been planting a new variety of elm, and surrounding the elms with a wide variety of other trees, which make them more resistant to the devastating affects of the fungus responsible for Dutch elm disease.

City Arboricultural Foreman Neil Trebble said the trees are doing well and this year he's planting sixty of them.

"We've got a disease-resistant variety and it's our hope to get our population of elm trees back up to where they were," Trebble said.

Fredericton once boasted one of the largest stands of elms outside of New York City's Central Park.

In the 1950s, elm trees, which line many streets in downtown Fredericton, became threatened by Dutch elm disease. Since then it has decimated North America's elm tree population.

Fredericton has had a Dutch elm disease management program since 1952.

While that initiative has been successful in saving many of Fredericton's elms, thousands of trees were lost and there's currently no way of eradicating the fungus.

This year Trebble is trying out some new varieties to plant around the elms including tulip trees and sweet gums.

"We want to avoid getting into a monoculture like we did before in the past, because elm disease devastated our one variety of tree, our elm," Trebble said.

One that has proven to be a hardy species is the honey locust.

The city had been planting 20 to 30 a year.

Homeowner Nicole Dominix couldn't be more pleased.

"It's nice that the city cares enough to beautify areas. Yeah, it's great," said Dominix.

She said her dog will also be happy with the results.

"I think he's going to be busy out here. Actually he's been barking at the hole for the last week. But yeah, I think he'll enjoy the tree better," she said laughing.

The city will plant 460 trees this year, hoping that in time, they'll be as hardy and healthy as the elms that still survive.