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Recently retired Charlottetown forest officer talks about her career highlights

Beth Hoar, who retired last week as the City of Charlottetown’s forest and environmental officer, says one of her passions is trees, especially the big elm trees such as this American elm at the corner of Grafton and Rochford streets that was planted in the late 1880s. It measures 145 centimetres in diameter and towers over the neighbourhood homes. It is believed to be the biggest elm tree on a city right-of-way.
Beth Hoar, who retired last week as the City of Charlottetown’s forest and environmental officer, says one of her passions is trees, especially the big elm trees such as this American elm at the corner of Grafton and Rochford streets that was planted in the late 1880s. It measures 145 centimetres in diameter and towers over the neighbourhood homes. It is believed to be the biggest elm tree on a city right-of-way. - Dave Stewart

Beth Hoar said the street tree inventory and tree protection bylaw are two of the highlights of her career

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Beth Hoar has had a passion for nature ever since she can remember.

She describes herself as a tree lover and someone who has a keen interest in invasive and native species.

Hoar was able to put her passion to good use in her job with the City of Charlottetown. She started out in 2006 as the parkland conservationist before her title was changed to forest and environmental officer. 

“I think we’ve come a long way with the (city’s) forestry program and the forest management program, and I was happy with that,’’ said Hoar said when asked to sum up her years with the capital city corporation, following her retirement last week.

Thanks to interdepartmental work and partnerships with organizations such as Tree Canada, Hoar said the city has made great strides in protecting what it has, repairing the damage of past storms and building for the future.

Hoar said a lot of people don’t realize how much work the city has put into reforestation efforts. Since 2012, more than 26,800 trees have been planted. That’s everything from one-foot-tall trees to larger 18-footers. In addition, there has been a significant effort to plant trees out at the city’s new Miltonvale wellfield site.

There have also been major challenges to Hoar’s department, such as Dutch elm disease that struck in 2015, forcing the city to cut down more than 400 of its elm trees. The city now has a monitoring project to keep an eye out for the emerald ash borer, which has been found in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Once introduced into an area, the beetle will kill off between 97 and 100 per cent of the ash trees.

Following the 2015 issue with Dutch elm, Hoar said the city launched a street tree inventory.

“That was really a big step for us, to get all of our street trees in an inventory,’’ said Hoar, adding that they’ve also started working on a woodland inventory and, this past summer, had some biology students in to start working on a parkland tree inventory. 

“Those are really great projects.’’

Beth Hoar said the trees in Connaught Square in Charlottetown have been hammered by multiple storms and Dutch elm disease over the years. The city has responded by planting young trees to replace those that were cut down. Dave Stewart/The Guardian
Beth Hoar said the trees in Connaught Square in Charlottetown have been hammered by multiple storms and Dutch elm disease over the years. The city has responded by planting young trees to replace those that were cut down. Dave Stewart/The Guardian

She also helped lead the effort to completely re-write the city’s tree protection bylaw, which council passed in May. The old bylaw was essentially a maintenance bylaw.

“What it is really focused on is tree retention. We want to protect the city trees. We (also) have some heritage tree protection in there that is for trees that are over 100 centimetres (in diameter). There are some components in there that are for construction sites and protect city trees as well as our street trees and park trees. It’s really about retaining our trees and protecting our urban forest canopy.’’

Hoar said there has also been an ambitious reforestation program that has been going on in Victoria Park since she started with the city. This program led to the development of a nature education campaign called Passport to Nature. More than 1,500 school children have taken part to date.

Tree Canada has also supplied funding to help the city create a couple of edible orchards, one at Desbrisay Community Gardens and one at Windsor Park, that offer the public a little bit of local food.

Hoar said she can’t take all of the credit for any of it. All of it was made possible by city management allowing her the room to work and for co-operation from numerous department managers, especially Ramona Doyle, the city’s sustainability officer.

Doyle said Hoar brought passion to her work, describing her as authentic and someone who genuinely wanted to champion things that would preserve and protect the natural environment and make the city better.

“Beth taught me lots of things during our time working together, she had an amazing amount of technical knowledge, but she had really strong human skills, too,'' Doyle said. "She was able to communicate what she knew to anyone and inspire them to also feel passionate about preserving nature.”

Hoar said she leaves with a big smile.

“It’s been a great ride. I’ve had some really big challenges, but it’s been really rewarding.’’

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