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Julia Sokulski: The Lorax of Calgary Fights For Marda Loop’s Green Giants

Sokulski started an online petition to save five locally-loved trees from the axe, gathering over 600 signatures

Five marked trees along a road in Marda Loop, Calgary, are being sent to the gallows, but not if resident Julia Sokulski has a say!

When she saw the removal notices pinned to the trees along Garrison Gate Southwest, she knew she had to act. 

Julia Sokulski  LinkedIn
Julia Sokulski | LinkedIn

Sokulski is an account manager at Brandsmith Calgary, an advertising services company. She is committed to “making a positive impact in both her work and the world beyond.”

Sokulska started an online petition to stop the city from cutting down trees, which received more than 600 signatures.

“I wanted to start a petition to see if anything could be done. Even if a couple of trees could be spared, I thought it was a fight worth fighting for,” Sokulski told Global News.

Using her branding experience, Sokulski knew she needed a face for the petition. 

“I try to speak not only for the trees but also for all the people who love the trees. I figured the Lorax was a perfect symbol for it,” explained Sokulski.

The Lorax can also be seen on posters Sokulski has pinned on the marked trees that read, “Let me be!”

Jeremy Deere, the owner of Strides Running Store, signed the petition immediately, claiming that removing trees in the area affects businesses. 

A marked tree in Marda Loop with one of Sokulski's posters  City News
A marked tree in Marda Loop with one of Sokulski’s posters | City News


The five trees marked for cutting are part of the city’s Marda Loop Main Streets project, and the trees simply don’t fit in the plan.

The project aims to “create well-designed, quality public realm elements and public space that prioritize the pedestrian experience, support ongoing redevelopment, and a thriving economic environment.”

In addition to the Marda Loop project, Calgary plans to expand its tree canopy through its Branching Out 2024 Program.

Tree canopy refers to the layer of leaves, branches, and stems on trees that cover the ground, like an umbrella, when viewed from above. 

Thick tree canopies have many benefits, including filtering air pollutants, generating oxygen, cooling streets, providing shelter, and providing animal habitats. 

Calgary’s tree canopy coverage is currently less than nine percent. Through the Branching Out Program, the city hopes to increase it to 16 percent. 

The program will give away trees for free starting in late spring. 

However, Marda Loop resident Colleen Fuhrman argues that the Marda Loop project defeats the purpose of the Branching Out Program.

“I think trees in communities are great. They make the air quality better. It’s more beautiful. They have homes for birds and little animals and stuff. I think it would be really sad for them to go down,” said Fuhrman.

Infographic outlining the benefits of tree canopy coverage in cities  TNC  Erica Simek Sloniker  Urban Forestry in DC
Infographic outlining the benefits of tree canopy coverage in cities | TNC | Erica Simek Sloniker | Urban Forestry in DC

Necessary Or Unnecessary?

Siberian elm tree
Siberian elm tree |

According to the city website, Calgary has inventoried 177 trees and decided that 99 trees, including the five on Garrison Gate Southwest, must be removed to complete the Marda Loop project.

However, the city isn’t cutting down trees willy-nilly. Calgary works closely with Parks Canada’s Urban Forestry and Conservation Team to assess Marda Loop’s tree canopy. 

They examine each tree and assess its structure and the health of its roots, trunk, branches, and buds. A rating scale is then used to determine how likely the tree is to survive, and removal decisions are made.

But some trees, healthy or not, need to be removed for completion of the construction process.

The city did not provide any additional information about why one tree stays and another goes. 

But for comparison, Calgary kept two mature Siberian elms because they were “very large, healthy, and important to the Marda Loop’s tree canopy.”

And maybe they just weren’t in the way of the project’s plan?

To make up for the trees the city is removing, Calgary plans to plant over 100 Northern Blaze White Ash, Northern Acclaim Honeylocust, and American Elms throughout Marda Loop. 

A marked tree in Marda Loop with a public notice of removal pinned on it |

These three tree species were chosen for their ability to thrive in urban environments. They also require little maintenance and have a high, shade-providing canopy.

Bob van Wegen, executive director of the Marda Loop Business Improvement Area, thinks cutting down trees is difficult but necessary. 

“Removal of trees is probably one of the most unfortunate things that happens in any big construction project. It’s not something we are happy about,” explained van Wegen.

Even if Calgary plants saplings to replace the trees it cuts down, it still takes up to 30 years for some trees to reach maturity. 

Compared to mature trees, tree saplings have very few immediate benefits. 

Wouldn’t slightly altering the redevelopment plan to include the trees make more sense than cutting them down?

Sokulski’s petition isn’t about saving a few trees but preserving important icons of the neighbourhood’s heritage, identity, and culture.

The Lorax would be proud.

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