Monday, May 30, 2011

The Forest City or how London took a negative and made it into a positive.

Some quibble over whether or not London can call itself  The Forest City.

The London Free Press is running a series "about figuring out who we are as a city." The paper sees this as "a  difficult but worthy task."

As part of the series, the paper looked at the possibility of rebranding London. According to the reporter doing the majority of the writing: "(The Forest City) means little outside London. Never heard of it before I came here and is so generic it describes nothing. Plus it’s not true." (As you can see by my photo, blurting out "it's not true" is a little extreme, but admittedly London could do better.)

Once I would have readily agreed with the reporter but having lived in London for more than three decades I have come around. The Forest City name has a long history; It goes back more than a century with roots deep in the early years of our southwestern Ontario city. The city has a trademark tree logo which they stick everywhere. Talk about branding.

The London tree symbol on the roundabout/overpass at Hale and Trafalgar.
What do the numbers say about London and trees?
  • Estimated number of trees in London: 4.4 million (source: The London Free Press)
  • Number of trees per London resident: 12 (source: The London Free Press)
  • Forest City's approximate woodland cover: 24.7% (March 2011 report)
  • Species of trees growing on City-owned land: 120 (City of London)

When the paper recently interviewed some Londoners, one of the participants in the panel discussion said:

When I'm in a different town I notice — they don't have the mature core or, like, where's the trees?

We are The Forest City, of course, and you notice that when you're not in The Forest City that we really do have a beautiful downtown. And I've noticed that with family that come into town. They say, "Look at the trees. I can't believe there's trees down all these streets and it's gorgeous."

London has lots of pastures and farmland on its outer edges.
I'm surprised that the woodland cover for London hits 24.7 percent. London contains a lot of farmland and pasture. I'd have thought that all the open land would have dragged down the city's coverage number.

In Ontario, London has a larger tree canopy than Brampton, Kitchener, Mississauga and Toronto. When it comes to cities in the States, the London coverage is just below the American average. Clearly we can do better but we aren't bringing up the rear with our tree coverage numbers either.

Oh well, I prefer to believe my eyes. This city has a lot of trees: Tall trees, twisted trees, green trees, red trees, flowering trees, broad-leafed trees, evergreen trees . . .

The Forest City: It's a beautiful name for a beautiful city.

Tall trees, twisted trees, green trees, red trees, flowering trees . . .

* Check the numbers. We are a Forest City!

One last thing on branding: It was pointed out to the local paper that no one this blogger spoke with in Brighton & Hove, England, knows a thing about the rebranding of Hove with the snooty "Hove, actually."

Even reporters at the local paper in Brighton & Hove say it never happened. "Hove, actually" is still interpreted as somewhat snooty and uppity and better left unsaid, unless you laugh as you say it. You must make your humorous intent clear or risk coming across as an upper-class-wannabe twit.

In defence of the paper's story the reporter said: "The point was how Hove took a negative and made it a positive." But Hove didn't! London did! In the beginning The Forest City label was not said as a compliment but over the intervening years London successfully put a new spin on those words and now owns them.

The Forest City was once home to a Canadian version of a Carolinian Forest.

1 comment:

  1. Cambridge, Ontario comes in at 27%, below Oakville but higher than London by a good measure.