There are many reasons why the Annex is one of the most desirable places to live in Toronto. Apart from the heritage buildings, an important source of its appeal is its natural environment.
Public Parks and Greenspace
The neighbourhood is dotted with thirteen different public greenspaces -- fourteen if you take into account the grounds of Huron Street Junior Public School. They range in size from the major Annex gathering places of Jean Sibelius Square Park and St. Alban's Square to the postage stamp of Boswell Parkette. But large or miniscule, they contribute immeasurably to the health and comfort and vibrancy of our community. For a map of these greenspaces click here.
The tree-lined streets of the Annex also contribute immensely to its charm. Home to a host of birds and wildlife, they offer respite on hot summer days and beauty as they change with the seasons. Some, like the stupendous Bur Oak that sits on private property off Spadina Road, were growing here hundreds of years ago, long before the arrival of European settlers. Others have been recently planted, many of them non-native species.
The value of these trees is more than just historic or aesthetic. Their complex root systems stabilize the water table. Their canopies moderate air temperatures, leading to an estimated 8% decrease in utility bills. Their respiration improves air quality by absorbing carbon emissions from automobiles and trucks.
If you'd like to Meet the Annex Trees, you will find facts, figures, and tips on how to identify and care for various species in our neighbourhood.
And if you want to check out what the state of the canopy was in 2010, click on this Interactive Tree Map organized by both street addresses and species.
The biodiversity and canopy of trees in the Annex is a precious resource that the ARA is committed to protecting. In 1994 the Annex community group 'Grassroots Albany,' led by Amanda McConnell, conducted what was then the first ever community tree survey and planning program in the city. They repeated the survey ten years later in 2004. And then in 2010 the ARA completed and published a comprehensive inventory of Annex trees through the efforts of the TreesPlease Working Group. Co-chaired by ARA members Polly Wells and Ramona Rea and assisted by Professor Andrew Kenney, the group oversaw the collection of data by knowledgeable students from the Urban Forestry program at the University of Toronto.
Unfortunately these surveys tell a sad story of steady decline in the Annex tree canopy over time. While many trees have died as part of the natural aging process, others have been brought down because of neglect and disease and development. In order to document continuing changes in the canopy and assess the current health of our trees, the ARA is once again undertaking a comprehensive tree survey of our community.
In 2021, the Board of the ARA voted to proceed with another comprehensive tree survey. The process requires a group of dedicated volunteers. We are lucky to be able to call on experts in the field. But we really need help from others who also have a passionate interest in preserving trees in the Annex.