Expert on livable cities tells St. Louis trees should top the list

An international expert on livable cities told a St. Louis audience that more trees should top the list of ways to make the city even more vibrant and enjoyable to reside, visit and do business.

Opportunities for walking and biking, ample parks and community gathering spaces like coffee shops were other elements highlighted by Guillermo Penalosa, executive director of the nonprofit 8-80 Cities and a former parks and recreation commissioner for Bogota, Colombia.

According to David Hunn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Penasola stressed that focusing on these elements rather than per-capita income will help cities thrive. When a city has the amenities people want, the economic piece fall into place.

“We live in an ever more globalized world,” Penalosa said. “Quality of life is the most important tool of economic development.”

If St. Louis wants to retain its best-and-brightest, he said, it has to focus on quality of life.

The role of urban forests in increasing quality of life is well appreciated by the more than 3,400 Tree City USA communities and the people who call them home. When we think of our favorite shopping districts or residential blocks, they are often the places full of healthy, well-maintained trees – even if we don’t realize it at first.

Penasola is right. If we want strong economies in our cities, we need to make them more livable and inviting. And if we want boost livability, it starts with trees.

The photo above, courtesy of Washington Magazine, shows the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, a two-year Tree Campus USA.

Nebraska and Iowa to continue funding recreational trails

UPDATE: All but two states have chosen to continue funding recreational trails, according to Streetsblog.

We’re a little bit late to this story, but thought it was worth mentioning that officials in Nebraska and Iowa have chosen to continue to funding recreational trails for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Why is this important? Two reasons: 1) Recreational space that allows people to enjoy time outdoors is crucial to the Foundation’s vision of green and livable communities; and 2) The new federal transportation law has shifted more discretion over trails funding to the states, so it’s a topic likely to come up in your area even if you don’t live in Nebraska or Iowa.

Lincoln, the home of Arbor Day Foundation headquarters, boosts an extensive and popular trail network that expands 128 miles into rural Lancaster County and a number of neighboring communities. It surely didn’t hurt that Lincoln is also the state capital, meaning key decision-makers in the Department of Roads and the Governor’s office have seen the value of the trails firsthand.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, bicycle enthusiasts in both states lobbied heavily to keep the funding from being diverted to other projects, which is now allowed under the new federal transportation law, MAP-21:

Rick Sanders, president of the 85-member Bellevue Bike Club, said he is grateful. Members of his club, as well as other bicyclers, had lobbied to retain the state programs, as well as federal funding.

“We’re probably one of the most fiscally conservative states in the Union,” Sanders said. “Having our governor step up for trails is good for the cause.”

According to the Great Plains Trails Network, every dollar spent on trails in Lincoln yields nearly $3 in medical savings due to healthier living. The trails also increase property values by up to 20 percent, a similar figure to the estimated increase associated with a robust tree canopy.

Photo courtesy of the Great Plains Trails Network.