Tree-planting in Richmond improves public safety through beautification

Trees are being planted in Richmond, California faster than landscape architects can track, count, and map to assess the city’s further arbor needs.

Photo Credit: Richmond Confidential

Over the past month alone, scores of volunteers have come together to plant more than one hundred trees in Richmond soil.

In exchange for learning proper planting practices and weekly watering efforts, the Richmond community is rewarded with shade, increased property value, reduced pollution, slowing traffic, and lower crime.

For a community that has struggled with crime over the years, these benefits are significant. In a recent news article, Richmond’s Police Chief Chris Magnus commended young volunteers for improving community and neighborhood safety through beautification. Magnus advocates:

An attractive neighborhood enhanced by the natural beauty of trees sends a message that the people who live there care and are engaged with what’s going on around them. This helps decrease crime and improves safety for all residents.

Research has linked increased tree-planting to decreased crime rates in other communities as well. Baltimore, Md., experienced a 12 percent drop in crime after a ten percent tree canopy increase and neighborhoods in Camden, N.J., are now considered highly desirable places to live thanks to newly-planted trees.

Photo Credit: Richmond Confidential

The benefits of tree planting extend from a broad environmental level to a personal, human level as well. Richmond volunteers express a sense of pride and ownership seeing trees in the community that exist thanks to their planting efforts. A student volunteer described the satisfaction of walking past trees she planted at a local high school as, “I did that, that’s my tree.”

Richmond Parks and Recreation officials honor volunteers for their individual roles as “guardian of the forest,” encouraging them to cherish the positive impact each person’s efforts has on the city of Richmond.

After receiving a $10,000 grant over the summer, tree-planting groups and volunteers in Richmond are continuing to positively change the future of the city, improving the social and environmental state of the community by planting trees.

Leading urban design expert says tree canopy “makes all the difference” for fighting climate change

America’s cities have many tools for combating climate change and reducing the heat island effect – but leading urban designer and author Peter Calthorpe told the PBS NewsHour that nothing comes close to cooling effect of well-maintained street trees.

“You can do white roofs and green roofs, but believe me, it’s that street canopy that makes all the difference,” Calthorpe (right) said, in a wide-ranging interview on cities, conducted during the Aspen Environment Forum.

Speaking more broadly about trends in urban design, Calthorpe said that we are “returning to some timeless qualities,” with demographic and cultural shifts causing Americans to take another look at more urban lifestyle.

Policies over the last several decades helped build the middle class, but also fueled dependence on the automobile and increased suburban sprawl, Calthorpe says, and some of those trends have begun to reverse as a result of the housing bubble bursting.

“It’s not that everybody is going to move back to the city. That’s a little bit of a misnomer that people get very excited about,” he said, adding: “We need to rethink how we build our cities, so it can’t be this ‘one-size-fits-all’ paradigm that we’ve had for so long.”

Calthorpe cites Sacramento as a city that is moving in the right direction, pointing in part to a tree canopy that reduces temperature in forested areas by as much as 10 degrees, a point few who have spent time in Sacramento would dispute.

Regardless of the local context, citizens and policymakers trying to bring people back into cities are encouraged to make urban forestry central to their cause.

“You can’t have a great street without street trees,” Calthorpe concluded.

100-year-old oak tree relocated instead of destroyed

The saying, “Out with the old, in with the new” usually signifies a refreshing change.  In some cases, however, the “old” should be treasured.

Photo Credit: Grist.org

Instead of cutting down a hundred-year-old oak tree to make room for improvements, the city council in League City, Texas voted to relocate the tree 1,500 feet from its original location to neighboring parkland.

It took contractors just under a month to properly prepare and transport the 56-foot tree weighing nearly 260 tons to its new location.

The process involved pruning, fertilizing, and hydrating the oak tree, sampling soil, and creating a large, hand carved, planter-box at the base of the tree to contain and protect its roots.

Photo Credit: Leaguecity.com

Once the tree box was completed, four steel beams were placed underneath the box and two cranes lifted the apparatus onto a steel plate.  It took three bulldozers and two excavators to then pull and guide the oak tree along a grass corridor to its home.

Moving can cause a lot of stress for a tree but so far, the old oak tree has been doing well in its new location.

Older trees are often mistakenly labeled as hazard trees and subsequently chopped down.  In a public place such as a park, it is the responsibility of city officials or tree  managers to exercise care, good judgment, caution, and foresight when inspecting trees and determining them necessary for removal.

By relocating, instead of destroying a healthy, older tree, League City shows its commitment to its urban forest and has honored the value and history that trees bring to a community.

You can read more about moving the 100-year-old oak here.

Check out the incredible video of the moving process below.

San Francisco supervisor seeks hearing on tree care

San Francisco boosts a healthy tree canopy and strong support for new tree planting. But the city’s urban forest is at risk due to a recent policy change that shifts responsible for street tree care from the Department of Public Works to property owners.

It’s a policy Supervisor Scott Wiener, one of the city’s eleven district-level representatives, hopes to address, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

There are currently close to 700,000 trees in San Francisco on public or private property; 110,000 of those are street trees that would be affected if the new policy is fully implemented. Because of budget cuts, city officials say they may only be able to prune those trees every 50 years, absent a new funding source.

As Supervisor Wiener points out, some property owners may be unwilling or lack the technical skills to take proper care of street trees, whose benefits are enjoyed broadly by the public. The Examiner quoted him as saying:

“We have hundreds of thousands of trees in the public realm in The City and it’s one of our greatest assets. It makes our city green, cleans our air and beautifies our streets. Yet, for a number of years, budget cuts have severely reduced DPW and Rec and Park’s urban forestry budget and their ability to maintain these trees.”

Declining resources for tree care is a problem facing cities across the country, even when local officials recognize the importance of investment in pruning and care. To fill the revenue hole, Wiener has suggested the potential for a small parcel tax, though a public hearing offers the opportunity for other solutions to be explored as well.

Photo is © Ingrid Taylar

Greening of Detroit singles out potential for urban trees to revitalize local ecosystem

The environment is playing a significant role in the resurgence of Detroit and Rebecca Salminen Witt, president of the nonprofit agency, Greening of Detroit, is a big part of the movement.

Greening’s mission statement has evolved over the years from specifically addressing replanting needs, to addressing the various needs of Detroit’s ecosystem.  The Greening of Detroit has filled several needs by creating planting and educational programs and encouraging environmental leadership and advocacy in the area.

In a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press, Witt explains that Greening’s forestry department has progressed to a green infrastructure department.  “Tree planting obviously is always going to be at the heart of what [this department] does,” stated Witt, “but they’re looking much more broadly at the ecosystem services that trees and forestry can provide, and they’re doing a lot of other things as well.”

Photo Credit: Greening of Detroit

The Greening of Detroit has broadened its methods from “classic tree planting,” to planting that will better utilize  the benefits of every tree; such as planting for stormwater retention and planting large, dense blocks of trees to remediate soil contamination.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted a new campaign for Detroit to repurpose vacant parcels of land into urban farmland.  Rebecca Witt is enthusiastic and prepared for the Greening of Detroit to take on similar opportunities for securing Detroit’s ecosystem, asserting:

That’s a pretty incredible thing to be able to think of a major American city that really could have an ecosystem that could support itself and all of its people in a way that is sustainable for the long term.

Some potential plans for Detroit include planting oak trees and maybe fruit orchards.

The Arbor Day Foundation avidly promotes the intrinsic benefits of urban trees. The work going on in Detroit isolates the potential of urban trees to revitalize a struggling community and establish a sustainable industry.

The Arbor Day Foundation agrees with research that explains the benefits of trees for stormwater retention. Rain refreshes and nourishes green landscape.  But as cities grow and tree cover is lost, so is the absorbing effect of plant life and soil.  Trees and vegetated infrastructure prevent costly stormwater runoff from polluting waterways with oil, heavy metal particles and other harmful substances.

Click here for a visual depiction of a city water system with few trees, and one with abundant trees.

Nonprofits like the Greening of Detroit are making huge impact and filling the inherent need for effective urban forestry tree planting and environmental care in communities nationwide.

Relationship between trees and neighborhood affluence offers important lessons for local leaders

A U.S. Forest Service survey of the San Francisco Bay Area found that neighborhoods with robust communities trees are usually more economically prosperous than areas lacking in trees.

Trees are scant in lower-income West Oakland and plentiful in affluent Piedmont just four miles away, according to the San Jose Mercury News. A similar contrast is evident when comparing Palo Alto to East Palo Alto in the South Bay.

“If you have a tree-lined street, people are more likely to shop there,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “If you have a tree-lined street, property values go up. … The more trees we have, the cleaner the air.”

Tidwell, a good friend of the Foundation, was in the Bay Area in person last month to announce a grant worth $181,000 for the locally-based Urban Releaf, which has planted more than 10,000 trees in Oakland and Richmond and recruits young people to help.

The Mercury-News also cites the work of environmental writer Tim De Chant, whose use of satellite images present a stark portrait of what he calls “Income equality, as seen from space.”

Of course, planting trees is just the beginning. In order to survive, urban trees require continued maintenance and care, an area where resource-starved cities often fall short. This is a question of long-term priorities and investment that local decision-makers across the country must face. San Francisco’s decision to shift the responsibility for tree care to property owners is an example of a troubling step in the wrong direction, one which we hope will be halted as the economy continues to recover and municipalities reclaim some of their lost revenue base.

Image: USDA via Bay Area News Group

Volunteers and local workers make a difference as drought threatens Joplin’s newly planted trees

Every year, natural disasters strike communities often resulting in a dramatic loss of trees that subsequently weakens the community’s environmental sustainability, economy, and sense of place.

Photo Credit: NPR.org

The Arbor Day Foundation’s Disaster Recovery Campaign is a structured response to the destruction caused by disasters in communities across the nation.   By collaborating and organizing with key state and local partners, the Arbor Day Foundation “facilitates the distribution of trees to citizens in communities in need.”

After the severe damage caused by the EF5 tornado that tore through Joplin in May 2011, a variety of organizations banded together to plant nearly 7,000 new trees in the devastated city.

Through a joint initiative with the Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, the Arbor Day Foundation developed the Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign.  This campaign distributed 12,000 trees to residents in four Joplin-area locations.

Foundation officials have described the Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign as an effort to restore Joplin’s precious and beautiful tree canopy to what it was before the May tornado.

An NPR news article details that, “sturdy varieties such as oak, sycamore and redbud — trees that can withstand strong winds when they’re taller” have been planted throughout Joplin.

In spite of all the progress made through the combined efforts of local and national supporters, Joplin’s young, newly planted trees are now struggling to survive a different environmental threat: drought.

Tom Meyer, manager of Carson Nurseries in Springfield, explains that young “trees are especially vulnerable to the drought.”

According to Meyer:

Freshly planted trees are real reliant on human beings taking care of them.  They need to water right at the root base, and there’s very little root structure beyond what was just planted. They can’t bring in residual water from farther out.

Fortunately, students on mission trips, volunteers and other workers from around the Joplin area have formed “bucket brigades,” toting heavy, five gallon buckets of water in the searing heat to around 562 young trees planted in Joplin parks.

Photo Credit: Joplin Globe

Thanks to these efforts and the perseverance and dedication to the restoration of Joplin, Ric Mayer, Joplin’s tree coordinator, estimates that presently, less than three percent of the newly planted trees will not survive.

The battle for the trees’ survival is not yet over.  Mayer believes that if the volunteers keep at it, there is hope for saving most of the trees in Joplin parks, but volunteers tend to be in short supply through August and September.

Any volunteers who want to water the trees in Joplin’s parks are welcome.  Homeowners are advised to not neglect their newly planted trees as well.

If you would like to donate to the Arbor Day Foundation’s Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign and help Joplin in its efforts to restore and maintain its tree canopy, please click here.

The following “before and after” photos portray the destruction caused by the May 2011 EF5 tornado that went through Joplin.

Photo Credit: Daily Mail

Christian Science Monitor surveys benefits of shade trees

The Christian Science Monitor’s “The Simple Dollar” blog this week touts the value shade trees can bring to both the wallet and the quality of a neighborhood.

Contributor Trent Hamm notes the difference he observed between the “slow-growing” tree in part of his house and “beautiful shade tree” in his neighbors yard that provides countless benefits just twelve years after being planted. Noting the shade from his neighbor’s tree makes gardening easier in his own yard, Hamm added:

For them, it’s even better. For a good portion of the morning, the tree provides shade to the back of their house. It keeps the hot rays of the morning sun from going in their windows, enabling them to throw open those windows for fresh air without worrying about the heat of the sun and keeping them from running their air conditioning until a bit later in the day than they otherwise would.

He goes to discuss many of the benefits of trees we talk about all of the time here the Foundation: lower energy bills, higher property values and chance to literally watch your own investment grow into something great. He also adds the important caveats about planting the right tree in the right place, and doing one’s homework prior to digging.

The whole piece is available here.

Arbor Day Foundation joins four partners in Missouri River cottonwood planting

Cottonwood trees are returning to the bank of the Missouri River.

Last week, a group of Nebraska City employees of the Arbor Day Foundation joined Nature Conservancy staff to plant 1,500 cottonwood seedlings along the river in southeast Nebraska, just north of Nebraska City. The two organizations are aided by the U.S. Forest Service and Nebraska Forest Service.

Lincoln-based Foundation employees participated in a similar planting earlier in the year.

Tyler Janke of the Nature Conservancy says cottonwoods were chosen because they are “tough” and grow quickly, even in the face of flooding.

“In a sense, cottonwoods are a pioneer species,” he said.

Cottonwoods are so resilient that they “essentially create their own microclimate,” Janke continued, “and they represent the beginnings of the forest community.”

And that’s exactly what we’re looking for – a chance to reforest and renew the ecosystem along the Missouri River, both in Nebraska and further downstream if we can. The new cottonwoods will make the area more sustainable and better able to withstand future flooding.

You can see the planting for yourself in this short video. Credit is due to Amy Stouffer, web content manager and e-communication specialist with the Foundation in Nebraska City, for preparing the footage and photographs.

North Dakota celebrates International Peace Garden, Vermont replants trees lost in Hurricane Irene

North Dakota

Nicknamed the “Peace Garden State” for being home to the International Peace Garden (a 2,339 acre Botanical Garden straddling the international Boundary between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba), the State of North Dakota honors Arbor Day today, the first Friday in May.

Photo Credit: Sterling News

The City of Fargo will honor Arbor Day with a tree planting by local elementary students and volunteers. The locations for the celebrations vary and include school grounds, parks city streets, bike trails and hiking areas. Bismarck will recognize Arbor Day by dedicating ceremonial Arbor Day trees to local citizens whose efforts have made a significant contribution to Bismarck’s urban forest.

According to the North Dakota Forest Service, the 2012 State Arbor Day Celebration will also honor the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts by planting a “Girl Scout Grove” at the International Peace Garden. Opened in 1932, the International Peace Garden claims to be the longest unguarded border in the world. This event offers the North Dakota Forest Service an opportunity to recognize the Girl Scouts for their many years of hands-on tree planting accomplishments.

It is fitting for the Girls Scouts to celebrate their centennial at the International Peace Garden since they were involved in its dedication in 1932.

You can find more information about the Girl Scouts Centennial, here.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 33,662 trees across the state last year. The State of North Dakota is currently home to 46 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in North Dakota is Fargo, population 99,200; the smallest is Pekin, population 80.

Vermont

During the fall, Vermont’s trees attract tourists from all over the United States who come to see the brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange foliage. Known as the “Green Mountain State” for its green, forest-covered mountains, Vermont also recognizes Arbor Day today.

Photo Credit: PRWeb

The Vermont Division of Forestry offers a variety of activities for Arbor Day 2012. Vermont students (grades 1-8th) can engage in learning about trees through the “Growing Works of Art” contest. This competition is meant to enrich students’ knowledge about Vermont’s trees and provide students with an opportunity to author what will become a set of trading cards to be collected by students across the state.  You can learn more about the Growing Works of Art contest, here.

Vermont also hosts a unique activity called the “Arbor Day Passport.”  Students (grades K-8th) complete a certain number of workbook projects to receive prizes such as a set of Tree Trading Cards or a Vermont State Parks day use pass. Learn more here.

Over the past year, Hurricane Irene caused some of the worst flooding Vermont had seen in 83 years. As a result of the tropical storm, many trees were blown down or damaged and had to be trimmed or taken down. Vermont was the first state to designate a day to clean up the entire state known as, “Green Up Day.”

This year, The State Irene Recovery Office has partnered with Green Up Vermont to incorporate Irene recovery activities into Green Up Day, creating the Green Up to Recover initiative. If you’re interested in being involved with the tree-planting or other environmental volunteer opportunities associated with Green Up Day, you can find more information here.

Arbor Day Foundation members have helped plant more than 65,715 trees across the state last year.  The State of Vermont is currently home to 8 Tree City USA communities. The largest Tree City USA in Vermont is Burlington, population 39,348; the smallest is Peacham, population 668.