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.

Missouri marks Arbor Day

The Show Me State also celebrates Arbor Day today. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the state has marked the holiday on the first Friday in April since 1886.

There are a lot of ways to celebrate. One is at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis (picture at right), which is giving away free seedlings to the first 600 visitors today.

The Department of Conservation has additional information and resources here.

Many Americans recall images of the horrible damage and devastation last year’s tornado wrought in the areas surrounding Joplin, Missouri. Months later, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the “toll of (the) tornado is told through Joplin’s trees” - namely, the fact that they’re not there. The Arbor Day Foundation will be distributing trees to residents on April 21 with the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center to help restore Joplin’s tree canopy to its pre-tornado strength.

You can donate to the Joplin Tree Recovery Campaign at arborday.org/joplin.

The State of Missouri is currently home to 80 Tree City USA communities, accounting for 2.4 million people. The largest Tree City USA community in Missouri is Kansas City, population 441,545; the smallest is Augusta, population 218.