Urban Forest a Priority in Charlotte, NC

urban forestry in Chorlotte NC

Urban Forest a Priority in Charlotte, NC:

Nestled in Mecklenberg County is the charming city of Charlotte, North Carolina, and nestled between all of the new and historical architecture is a strong, ever growing urban forest.

As boasted on the City of Charlotte’s website, “Charlotte is nationally recognized for its  extensive, diverse and healthy tree canopy. For more than 30 years, Charlotte citizens and government agencies have chosen to protect and preserve trees in our community.”

The boasts, though, are backed up by leafy green facts. In 2012, the National Recreation and Park Association awarded the National Gold Medal Award, and the teams that make up The City Arborist and The Urban Forestry oversee the protection, planting, and maintenance of trees. Charlotte is logged at 46% with over 200 species of trees, and an encouraging ration of one tree for every seven residents.

It’s clear that Charlotte holds a certain amount of pride and motivation in maintaining and improving the health of their canopy. One way they bring the city dwellers into an active role is good old fashioned awards.

“The Charlotte Tree Advisory Commission, on behalf of The Mayor and City Council, annually presents Charlotte’s Crown Tree Awards in four different categories.  These awards recognize excellence in tree preservation, tree planting, and tree advisory.  To be eligible, the site must have been complete for one year.”

Further, Charlotte maintains its position in the top ranks of cities with urban forests. Recently completed in December of 2015, Charlotte has made available to the public First Ward Park. First Ward is a 4 acre park of former nestled, “between the ImaginOn library and UNC Charlotte’s uptown campus, [and] is expected to anchor a major redevelopment of the area, much of which is still surface parking owned by Levine Properties.”

Just as in so many other urban forests, the benefits of a strong urban forest bring huge returns to Charlotte’s infrastructure, and has provided this charmed city , “… with $2.76 million in benefits. In addition, Charlotte’s trees provide more than $900,000 in energy savings annually and $2.1 million in stormwater controls.”

The results in Charlotte are inarguable and compelling models for other city’s urban forestry efforts.

photo coutesy of . fortibus

DC Calling More of Their Trees Special

DC Calling More of Their Trees Special

DC Calling More of Their Trees Special:

In 2003, a law was enacted that began a new future for the trees of the United States’ national capital. The Urban Forest Preservation act outlined specifically, “To establish an urban forest preservation program; to require a Special Tree removal permit and community notification prior to the removal or replacement of a tree with a circumference of 55 inches or more, [and] to establish a Tree Fund to be used to plant trees and defray costs associated with the implementation of this act.”

As with any other urban forestry program, the evidence of benefits in having a healthy urban forest are real and tangible. The Act created in 2003 opened a path for a stronger future for community members to be pro-active and effective in their decisions to support their urban forest’s future.

Coinciding with the birth of the Act of 2003, the non-profit organization Casey Trees was founded by Betty B. Casey, a local resident. Her intent is in this establishment is, “To restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of the Nation’s Capital.”

Now in 2015, the new Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2015 is introduced by, “Council member Charles Allen of Ward 6 and co-sponsored by Ward 3 Council member Mary Cheh.” In support of the Act and its provisions, Casey Trees promoted and made available to the public a petition to sign in support of the Act passing.

The act makes several significant provisions including bringing DDOT’s Urban Forestry Administration into a more proactive position to cover not just street trees, but also ones located on school and park grounds.

In order for these “special” trees to be removed, increased payments must be made to the DC “Tree Fund” unless the tree is considered unhealthy or hazardous. In addition, the original circumference of 55-inches decreases to 47-inches, and fines for removing a “special” tree have tripled.

“Now the Sierra Club of DC and some others would like the Council to embrace new criteria that would bring more trees into this “special” category,” states the Forest Hills Connection webpage.

These clearly outlined acts offer a structure and system that almost guarantee the responsible handling for DC’s forestry indefinitely. In DC, it’s not so bad to be a tree.


Texas Takes Trinity River by the Horns

Texas takes trinity river

Texas Takes Trinity River by the Horns:

Within the city limits of Dallas, Texas, there is an eleven mile stretch of land named the Trinity River Corridor. An urban hardwood forest to rival New York’s Central Park in size, this gem of real estate is the site where years of visions, funding and plans have recently gone under way.

The Trinity River Vision Authority (TRVA) is the organization responsible for the implementation of the Trinity River Vision (TRV) – a master plan for the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas.” Alongside the TRVA, Viridian Energy has made its entry into the entire state of Texas, providing potential green energy services to over 25 million residents. Hand in hand with the TRV, Viridian has already contributed severall hundred volunteer hours to, “remove a total of 2,050 pounds of invasive plants, trash and debris from the Dallas Floodway along Cedar Creek and the Santé Fe Trestle Trail.”

The TRV encompasses a program that will create, “new recreational amenities, improved infrastructure, environmental enhancements and event programming,” as well as a new urban waterfront neighborhood re-named Panther Island. As stated on the TRVA website, responsibility to the urban forestry is a large part of the project goals, including flood control, ecosystem restoration, and sustainability.

The website further elaborates,“While previous channelization and levee construction has provided a measure of flood protection to Fort Worth’s central city, it left much of the Trinity River a broad, straight trapezoidal vessel with little environmental character.”

Since April of 2015, the TRV was given the approval to seek federal funding by way of the Army Corps of Engineers. The Dallas Morning News reported on this huge hurdle overcome, reporting a, “$572 million comprehensive plan that would enhance flood protection, provide a reliever road for downtown highways and create recreational amenities along the river’s path.”

With the collaboration of companies and government with the great city of Dallas, the Trinity River Project is a large, but successful example of urban planning that touches on and addresses essential parts of revitalizing an urban area. For the future of the environment, a key factor in this project is that the redevelopment and redesign can and will continue to respect and successfully coexist with nature.

image courtesy of Jeremy Monin . Dallas skyline with Trinity River

San Francisco Claims Their Trees

san francisco claim their trees

San Francisco Claims Their Trees:

Across the United States, cities and regions all contend with a host of different environmental elements and human needs. Each city has its own approach to its urban forestry and community involvement, and San Francisco is no different.

Founded about five years ago, an initiative called The Urban Forest Map was created for the residents within San Francisco to take an active part in tallying up and taking inventory of the trees around them.

Their mission statement says, “The Urban Forest Map is a collaboration of government, nonprofits, businesses and you to map every tree in San Francisco…The information we gather will help urban foresters and city planners to better manage trees in specific areas, track and combat tree pests and diseases, and plan future tree plantings. Climatologists can use it to better understand the effects of urban forests on climates, and students and citizen scientists can use it to learn about the role trees play in the urban ecosystem.”

Partnering with this forum is the San Francisco Department of Public Works. The department holds meeting open to the public nine months out of the year, and provide online records of all concerns discussed.

With this sort of accountability and freedom to offer input, the Urban Forest Map was created to help, “provide a one-stop repository for tree data, welcoming information from any agency or group and enabling and celebrating citizen participation.”

Hand in hand with the Urban Forest Map initiative are the Friends of the Urban Forest, an organization founded almost four decades ago as a response to cut fundings for the urban forest. Since then FUF has, “developed a dedicated Tree Care program led by an ISA-certified arborist….[and]  launched its Youth Tree Care program (now called Green Teens), one of the nation’s few paid urban forestry vocational skills training programs.”

As we strive to take a more active approach in our urban forests, knowledge is power, and technologies are constantly created, updated and improved to tell us more about the trees we integrate into our cities’ landscapes. An essential part of the success of these initiatives is the support and participation of the local inhabitants. It’s time to grow our environments.

iTree Systems Get Smart in Urban Forestry

Citygreen - iTree Systems Get Smart in Urban Forestry

iTree Systems Get Smart in Urban Forestry:

Think back to a time that you forgot to water one of your houseplants. Now think about the time and energy it takes to remember and organize the maintenance of an entire community’s forest, that is, every tree. Since the USDA Forest Service introduced this suite of technology in 2006, iTree has been making it possible for communities and their supporting infrastructure to get smart with their urban landscaping efforts, and make the most of their valuable resources, the trees.

“Whether it be a residential home with a single tree or a larger area, such as a neighborhood, city or county, with a large population of trees…” the suite of technologies offered by iTree help build accuracy in inventory of trees, as well as an analysis and benefits over the course of the tree’s lifetimes. This accurate snapshot of the urban canopy not only gives the information needed to know how best to maintain the forestry, but it also helps quantify the value in investing into the quality of a community’s urban forestry, both in dollars and scientifically. One of the best parts, is this technology is available to download for free.

“When an i-Tree project is completed, reports are provided to inform users how neighborhood trees contribute to carbon sequestration, building energy savings (through shading and/or blocking wind), air quality improvements, and stormwater interception, “ as stated on the USDA webpage.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has been successful in implementing the iTree software for nineteen communities thus far.Tracy Salisbury, urban forestry coordinator for the Natural Resources Department in the northeast region said, “Our goal was to use i-Tree to create fact sheets so that decision-makers — mayors and city councilors — can see the value of their trees…We want to show them the value in a new light.”

As the program further develops, partnerships have been made with the Forest Service, Davey Tree Expert Company, National Arbor Day Foundation, Society of Municipal Arborists, International Society of Arboriculture, and Casey Trees to provide technical support.

Including iTree Hydro, which is still in the beta stage, iTree system boasts a total of six applications also including i-Tree Eco, i-Tree Streets, i-Tree Vue, i-Tree Canopy and i-Tree Design.

Winter Park, Florida Goes Out on a Limb

Citygreen - Winter Park, Florida Goes Out on a Limb

Winter Park, Florida Goes Out on a Limb:

As with every July, another essential collection of 50-50 matching grants have been issued by the Director of the Florida Forest Service, and the recipients are already endeavoring on essential and compelling projects and initiatives… “to develop or enhance their urban and community forestry programs.”

The City of Winter Park’s Urban Forestry Division was awarded a $20,000 grant, with the city matching those funds.

These essential funds mark the beginning of the third phase of a project to phase out dead or sickly trees with new ones. It is expected that the project’s completion in the Orange County suburb will span across several years.

“The grant was presented to Winter Park for its partial rights of way tree inventory, and this partial inventory will assist the city in managing rights of way maintenance cycles,” as stated in a recent article in the Orlando Centennial.

The Urban Forestry Management Plan confirms, “In 2005, the city hired ArborPro, Inc., a full service urban forestry and software consulting company to perform an inventory of right of way (ROW) trees.” This proactive decision was in part to a devastating hurricane season in 2004, and the canopy is still recovering ten years later. In 2012, a risk assessment study was performed by ArborPro, Inc. on several hundred of those trees.

Fortunately, Winter Park’s Urban Forestry Division seems to be up to the task, and make available for public knowledge their plans and resources on their main webpage. Resources include a robust list of trees ideal for not only creating diversity in the urban canopy, but also the ideal placement of the tree species, such as along streets and sidewalks.

“The city’s urban forest consists of over 75,000 trees on private and public property and there are over 25,000 trees in city rights of way…” and an estimated third of that population will require removal in the next several years. Moving forward, an emphasis will be put on creating more diversity in the tree species, as the tree populace is imbalanced by a majority of mature trees on a decline, making them more susceptible to hurricane damage, disease, and drought.

Though each local community and environment is unique, Winter Park has found the steps towards an attentive, responsible, successful program, and deciding to do so creates a successful future that any urban forest could enjoy.

photo credit . Winter Park, FL – Ebyabe

Ann Arbor Upholds “Tree Town” Nickname

Citygreen - Ann Arbor Tree Town

Ann Arbor Upholds “Tree Town” Nickname:

Most towns and cities have something to boast of, or be known by. The “blueberry capital”, the “garden state”, the “city of love” are all examples, and Ann Arbor’s Michigan is no different. Known as “Tree Town” by its residents, Ann Arbor is true to its nickname. The local community’s action plans and efforts in the local forestry is robust.

In the past year, the City Council adopted a new plan for managing the urban forestry. The plan, “provides policy direction and guidance to city staff on efforts to sustainably maintain and expand the city’s tree canopy. It includes 17 recommendations, including monitoring threats to tree health.”With just under 7,000 trees in parks and over 40,000 trees along city streets, an additional one million dollars was invested in the past year to compensate for backlogged tree maintenance. Other challenges, which are shared by other widespread areas across the United States include the emerald ash borer, which “led to the removal of thousands of ash trees. .”

On the positive side, the value of urban forestry proves itself by a landslide, and it’s estimated that, “Ann Arbor’s publicly managed trees provide more than $4.6 million in benefits to the community each year, including reducing stormwater runoff, saving energy, improving air and water quality, and beautifying the city.”

This 146 page document, the Urban and Community Forest Management Plan includes seventeen “specific recommendations,” including, “Recommendation #11: Enhance and develop programs that encourage active participation by volunteers in the development and promotion of a sustainable urban and community forest.” Actions and resources have thus far followed these intentions, and the City of Ann Arbor webpage cites resources including the 2016 Tree Planting Plan. The tree planting begins this fall of 2015 in November, and spring of 2016.

The clear development of plans, resources, education, and a sense of pride all create a success story for the future of Ann Arbor’s urban forestry. It stands that by following this model, and adjusting to each unique urban forest, other cities, towns, and communities could enhance their tree population’s health and longevity as well. Maybe all our cities could strive to be “Tree Towns.”

Retail Landscaping, The New Experience

Citygreen - Retail Landscaping, The New Experience

Retail Landscaping, The New Experience:

When thinking about creating a retail environment that stimulates shoppers’ spending habits and experiences, flashy branding and aesthetically pleasing displays make a lot of sense, but what if there was something a little less expected, and yet so much more naturally nurturing and powerful to the human experience?

In decades before today, city dwellers expelled themselves from the urban environment, seeking out the less congested neighborhoods of the suburbs, and all shopping needs being addressed by the enclosed, glass, metal, and stone of department stores and malls.

Coinciding with this sociological shift, research has been conducted since the 1970’s investigating the need and benefit of nature as part of the daily human experience. One of the overriding pieces of evidence shows that environments featuring greenery and natural elements are, “… consistently preferred over non-green urban settings, or environments dominated by artefacts,” (Joye, et al. 2010).

In keeping with those studied benefits, landscape infrastructure is no longer as simple as planting plants to give a more affluent, manicured aesthetic, but a tool to build better urban spaces, “from the layout of streets, sidewalks, plazas, and buildings to outdoor natural features and amenities that are iconic and in tune with cultural, social, and environmental uniqueness,” says Randall Shearin of Shopping Center Business.

Given the shift in the human experience’s needs, people have begun to seek out establishments and areas that aren’t just purely for retail, but also opportunities to have stimulation on a social and personal, internal level.

Appropriately, design firms and investors have responded by renovating existing traditional mall formats to open-air venues and town centers, like the City Creek Center in downtown Salt Lake City. Places like this give specific attention to the original environment they are built around, or in. In this case, large trees and a creek create a natural traffic pattern that allows the space to feel as though it was an original part of the landscape anyways, as if the town center itself grew as part of the landscape.

These open-air venues turn people who were primarily customers visiting specific businesses into community members who took ownership of the space. This seems like this rich, green, urban oasis could only be benefitting those patrons who visit the developments, but not so.

“Having a tenant in front of the main square is like having a retailer at center court in the mall; tenants want to be along those public spaces,” says Yaromir Steiner, CEO of Steiner + Associates, a leading developer of mixed-use environments. “The square attracts people. Kids can play in the fountain; adults can go to the farmer’s market or listen to concerts. It builds traffic.”

By visiting mixed-use environments that give, “experiences and places for shoppers to enhance — and increase — their visits,” says Shearin, they offer different venues to create a similar convenience of online shopping, a hard thing to compete with, until now. Simultaneously, environments are designed where people seek an experience that enhances and enriches their daily lives, local economy is stimulated and supported, and thereby creating a natural and mutually beneficial balance between the man-made, and nature’s best offerings.


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