Beautifying the Highways of Ontario

Date Published: 
September, 1921
Original Author: 
Henry J. Moore
Department of Public Highways, Toronto, Ontario
Original Publication: 
AACS Proceedings of the 35th Annual Convention

It gives me great pleasure to tell you of the work that the Ontario Government is doing in the way of beautifying its highways, a work in which you, as an organization will heartily concur.

Length of Highway: The total mileage of Provincial Highways in Ontario is at present approximately 2000. This does not include other roads of which there are thousands of miles. It is the aim of the Department of Public Highways to make the fore mentioned 2000 miles eighty-six feet in width, as it has been found that the ordinary sixty-six feet road is too narrow for modern demands, as not only should the right of way be wide enough to accommodate the roadway and gutters but also the main trunk lines of the telephone and electric power and light and last but not least to provide a planting space for trees and shrubs and one which in course of time may be neatly boulevarded and made pleasing from an ornamental standpoint. About 500 miles have been so widened or are in process of widening and the cross section shows 28 feet for roadway and 8 feet for ditches on each side and 21 feet for poles (when necessary) and trees on each side. On such highways there is little danger of the trees interfering with the telephone and power service and so harmony from the useful as well as from the aesthetic standpoint must exist.

Method of Planting: About every one hundred miles of highway constitutes a Residency and is under the charge of a Resident Engineer: such engineers have under their control a number of foremen with their gangs of men. During Fall and Spring when the road work is not in progress these foremen and gangs carry out the planting as advised by the Forester who instructs them in the selection and planting of trees and shrubs. The trees are largely selected from the bush lands adjacent to the highways and being native are thus desirable for the purpose. Twenty-five cents per tree is paid to the farmers and the work of lifting and hauling is paid for by the Department. The total cost of lifting, planting, staking and mulching is less than one dollar per tree. In cases where especially fine well shaped and rare specimens such as oaks are required the cost is a little more. Recourse is also made to the nurseries.

In purely country localities native trees are alone planted as it is the desire of the Department to keep the highways typically Canadian, such trees as the Red and White Oaks Hard or Sugar Maple, Elms, White Ash, Black Walnut, Butternut, Native Chestnut, Brasswood and so on are utilized. At the approach to the various municipalities exotic trees are also included and comprise Norway Maples, Oriental Planes, and other shade trees of recognized value.

The minimum spacing of trees is seventy-five feet in the rows which are located two feet from the boundary lines. With such spacing every tree has a chance of perfect development and as light and air have free access to the roadway, moisture does not remain thereon for any length of time to cause disintegration of the surface.

Special Beautification: Wherever at intersections of the highways near towns small waste areas exist; these are beautified by trees and shrubs. Two such parks have already been laid out, one at Port Hope, the other at Cobourg, and where at the approaches to large municipalities, special treatment is desired, this is affected with the cooperation of the municipal authorities, special grading of the areas, and the planting of shrubs is effected by the Department of Public Highways and such are maintained at the, expense of the municipality. The Easterly approach to the city of St. Catharines, which passes the beautiful and well kept Forest Lawn Cemetery, managed by a member of your organization is shortly to be beautified in this way.

Legal Protection: No injury to permanent plantations, or to existing trees is permitted, a penalty provided by law is inflicted in the case of willful damage or of Vandalism. No company or person may without permission cut or remove a single branch. Needless to say that in the case of existing wires or cables any necessary and reasonable cutting is allowed but only under the direction of an expert on the Provincial Highways of Ontario. The straying of cattle along the highway is also by law prohibited. However, generally, the law has so well been observed that no prosecutions have up to the present, been necessary.

Reforestation of Waste Areas: Not the least important of the work carried out by the Ontario Department of Highways is the reforestation of the abandoned gravel pits and quarry areas. These wherever possible are reforested with seedling pines, or with other commercial trees, steep banks where considerable cutting or filling has been done by the Engineers to reduce the grades are also landscaped or reforested as the case may be As many of these areas are contiguous with the highway the educational value of the project will be readily understood. Motorists may readily see the planted areas without even leaving their cars. The Ontario Department of Forestry very kindly supplies the seedling pines from its nurseries.

Help to Residents and Institutions: Ontario desires not only to beautify her highways but also to assist residents living along them to beautify their property so that not only will the planting strip be beautified but the frontages of farm and suburban homes school grounds and cemeteries. For this reason a plan will be supplied to all persons whom having a real desire to improve their property will undertake the work. Many such plans have already been prepared; where such improvement is effected; the increased value of the property, more than justifies the expense. One good turn deserves another and it has been extremely gratifying to find that in turn, people have actually offered to undertake the maintenance of the Highway planting strip outside of their fence line.

Free Advice: Not the least important of the activities of the Ontario Department of Public Highways is the giving of advice to County Road Engineers and Superintendents and also to Municipal Councils in the matter of selection of trees, pruning, planting and other matters pertaining to tree culture. Upon request lectures are given during the winter evenings in nearly all parts of the Province on Highway Beautification, Landscape art and allied subjects. In these the Highways Department and the Department of Agriculture cooperate, as far as compatible without the duties of one over lapping the other. It will readily be seen that any work which pertains to the beautification of Highways and Farm Frontages must necessarily be of interest to the Department of Agriculture and so, through the Horticultural Branch of the latter, splendid cooperation is effected. During late winter and early spring of this year (1921) six thousand two hundred and fifty people attended the lectures, an average for the fifty lectures given of one hundred and twenty-five people each. The largest audience was five hundred and the smallest thirty-two. The interest of so many people shows that the Beautification of Roads and of home surroundings is a work which is gripping human hearts. Where the treasure is there will the heart be also. And the treasure may be a home with beautiful surroundings and happy children, tor Children are always happy under such circumstances, even along an old stone road.

Beautiful Bridges: Some of the new bridges constructed or under construction span ravines which are nine hundred to one thousand feet wide, these bridges are largely of steel and concrete and of ornamental design, light and graceful, but sufficiently strong and rigid to carryall loads that the Department allows upon the highways. One has but to compare them with the bridges lower in the ravines which previously gave service, to realize the tremendous advance that has been made in the construction of highway bridges. Bridges are permanent features and as such, should be beautiful in design. When so, they serve a great educational purpose and are objects to admire. Ontario is building such bridges.

Reasons for Beautification: Beauty is essential to civilized life. The Creator knew this when he created the Garden of Eden. But why did he create it? To inspire. Canada is a big country, larger than the United States and Alaska combined. Ontario is a big and wonderful province and the people of Canada with those of the United States represent a far advance in intelligence. Beauty is essential to us all. Ontario is building and has already built some of the finest highways of the world and is now beautifying them. You are destined to learn of them and to enjoy as you journey over their smooth well finished surfaces and drink in the inspiration of the beauty along the way.

The roads over which your people and our people journey day by day are the things we should live they are part of our lives. Nothing to live along a hot and dusty road, is there? Without God's green canopy overspreading, giving of its generous shade and shielding the eye from the glaring sun. Governments and Institutions and men are measured by what they do. The Ontario Government is making its roads good and beautiful. These roads will stand as a milestone in the advance of civilization and as a heritage and an example to her people who will follow.

Beautiful roads inspire the people who live along them. They are encouraged to improve their homes and by so doing they afford better living conditions to their children; beautiful roads and beautiful homes surroundings put the undesirable to shame and he either adapts himself to changed conditions paints his barn and home, plants a few flowers or retreats to the back woods. Property adjacent to such highways is always very valuable, and highly to he desired. Good and beautiful highways encourage tourists and usually a good class of settlers. They mean money to the State or Province which builds them. Beauty along the way is undoubtedly a valuable asset.

One Province cannot live without another; one of the Provincial Highways will but form a link in a great Trans-Canada road, wide, beautiful and inspiring and worthy of a place in a great country. One country cannot live without another. Other highways will join those which you build from the south and as along them our interests mingle, we will be as one people. Your prosperity, our prosperity, all prosperity depends largely upon good roads, and the good and beautiful roads of Ontario are open to you as your good' roads are forever open to us. And may it be that through the intercourse which these good and beautiful roads afford, we will continue to learn to love each other until a friendship is consummated which no power on earth can sever.

Permit me to thank you for the opportunity of speaking to this excellent gathering, Catholic and Protestant alike men and women descendants of many nations, but all speaking the English tongue and using that speech in the interests of a greater and more beautiful world. No Sinn Feiners here! When we meet upon such an occasion, we are stepping upon an elevated platform where we can understand the virtues of each other's creeds. In Ireland many people are in the muck and mire of prejudice. Beauty and sunshine and art and everything that should fill their lives with gladness are obscured by the clouds of ignorant hatred. Why don't they step up?

During the war, the Spring came and went and the wild flowers scattered over the plain, and we lived but saw not the flowers or the dawn nor the sunset's glow, and now the war is finished and our minds are turning to the thing worth while. Tonight we have met to discuss things that pertain to beauty; things without which the soul cannot endure; things that mark the progress of Christianity and of civilization. You have turned your cemeteries-places of the dead-into gardens, places of life and beauty. You live and love that of which you have charge. It is your life's highway. Beauty keeps us perennially young because it inspires and cheers as we go through life. Would that all men could see the beauty of flowers and trees, and of God's great rolling landscape and live these things. Then the flowers of love would grow in the human heart as in the woodland glade.

In return for the happy hour spent with you, would you allow the speaker to invite you to spend an hour with him, an hour as he lives it, along a highway of life in a world of wondrous beauty, and with him in this little poem, drink again at the fount of youth in a glade where no heart is ever old.


Come out to the woods in the silvery morn
When the dew pearls deck the grassy sod
Let youth again in your heart be born
Come out and spend a day with God;

Come out with me where the flowers bloom
And the breezes rustle through shrub and trees
Let youth again in your heart find room
Come out and be young once more with me;

Come out old friend where you and I
As children romped in the blossoming glade
Come out from streets that hide the sky
And see the things that God hath made;

Come out old friend while your aged eyes
This wondrous flower clad glade may see,
Come out again 'neath the sunny skies,
And pick the bloom of youth with me;

Come out though the hair of your head is grey
And your brow is furrowed by lines of care
Come out with me to the woods today
And find the joy that is everywhere.

From the publication:
AACS - Proceedings of the 35th Annual Convention held at Detroit, Michigan
September 13, 14 and 15, 1921