Sunday, June 24, 2007

Restoring Lost Tree Canopy

Jason Hardin wrote today's front-pager on Greensboro's loss of tree canopy over the past several years:

In a recent 16-year stretch, the tree canopy in and around Greensboro shrank by nearly a fifth as houses, roads, shopping centers, ice storms, disease, insects and other threats decimated the urban forest that graces the Piedmont.
It's a good, well-researched story.

It's too bad he didn't mention the Neighborwoods (PDF) program, a public-private partnership to help replace lost trees. Last year, the Westerwood neighborhood won the grant, and this year, my own neighborhood put in an application. If we're successful, we'll be working with the city and Greensboro Beautiful to plant hundreds of trees this fall.

Maybe Jason didn't mention Neighborwoods because it's not certain that it will be included in next year's budget.

One more thought: established canopy trees in Greensboro's historic districts are protected by the historic district design guidelines (PDF), which is one reason why those neighborhoods are so leafy. I was on the 18th floor of the Wachovia tower a while back, and you can't see a single house in Fisher Park from there, though it's right nearby -- the whole neighborhood is hidden by trees.


Anonymous said...

That's great! I love trees. I planted 24 trees in my yard a few weeks ago (trying to make a natural fence!) and I wish I had more. I miss old, beautiful trees.

I drove around your neighborhood today and thought of how nice it would be to live in an area like that. Wait. Until 10 years ago, I lived all my life in an area like that! Neighborhoods such as yours are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

The City's actually getting ready to do another update of the satellite imagery so we'll have more current data on tree canopy loss (and hopefully some reforestation in places) in the coming months. Don't know exactly when the new information will ultimately be available at this point.

One of the major reasons we bought our current house is there was a creek behind the property resulting in an undeveloped area with many trees, giving us a small forested area to enjoy year round. Plus the previous owners had planted a number of trees around the property. I think most people who buy a home end up planting trees (if they don't have them) within a year or two after they move in. It really shouldn't be that hard to save a few trees when building homes. I can guarantee people will be willing to pay more for mature trees on a lot versus no trees or very small ones.

David Wharton said...

I had several conversations with the city's last arborist (Melissa Begley) about a proposed tree ordinance that I guess never got off the ground. TREBIC was pushing hard to weaken its provisions.

But the developers did have some good points about tree preservation.

One of them is that trees that have grown up in a forest or grove are very seldom suitable as stand-alone trees. They're tall and skinny and don't usually survive. That's why places like Reedy Fork have stands of trees at the development's borders, but are clear-cut in the developed areas.

Arborists will tell you that young trees planted on new lots have a greater chance of survival, and will eventually look much better.

But that takes about 40 years!

I've seen some new development in Charlotte where old trees are preserved, and they've had mixed success. Many of the old trees just couldn't take the stress and died, and now the owners are looking at paying several thousand dollars for tree removal.

Anonymous said...

Trees are great and it would be woderful for the city if it were covered by a canopy of trees. Private property is great, as we all resent in some way someone else telling us what to do with our property. Where the two meet is a problem and an emotional issue. We underestimate how easy it is for us to tell someone else what to do with their property.

Anonymous said...

David that "new ordinance" you're referring to is being rolled into the full Land Development Ordinance rewrite and that's why you haven't seen changes to the existing ordinance. In case you're not aware, the City's new urban forester is Mike Cusimano, who has the same phone number.

David Wharton said...

I've had the pleasure of meeting Mike C.

I didn't know that the tree ordinance was being written into the LDO -- and that's odd, because I'm on the LDO advisory team. Guess we just haven't got to that section yet.

In that case, I guess I can look forward to some lively discussion for future LDO meetings.