By Lisa Moore
Besides being beautiful to look at and fun to climb, trees are a valuable asset to a city, requiring care and maintenance like other public property. Just as sidewalks, streets and buildings are part of a city’s infrastructure, so are trees. They work 24 hours a day to enhance the environment and our quality of life.
Environmentally, trees improve air and water quality, wildlife habitat and stream buffers. They produce oxygen, remove pollution from the air and water runoff, reduce global warming and increase the amount of water in our lakes and streams in times of drought.
Trees increase our property value and help shade and cool homes. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. The role of trees an urban setting is invaluable.
Once known as “The City of Trees,” Charlotte is now losing trees at a dramatic rate. According to the latest study of Mecklenburg County completed by American Forests, Inc., between 1985 and 2008 the county lost 33% of tree canopy, 2.8% of open space, and increased urban/impervious areas (roads, parking lots, buildings) by 60%. Lost air quality benefits resulting from this land cover change is $8,739,909.00 annually. Increased costs to manage storm water resulting from this change are $50,093,674.00.
The Charlotte Public Tree Fund (CPTF) strives to save and plant more trees to reduce the negative impacts of these changes.
The not-for-profit group promotes the planting and preservation of trees within Mecklenburg County communities through fundraising, education and volunteer–driven tree planting events. CPTF would like to see the city take stronger action in its growth planning to insure adequate canopy remains once Charlotte is fully developed.
Â “Charlotte’s budget for tree planting and maintenance is woefully underfunded,” says Rick Roti, Chair of Charlotte Public Tree Fund. “We can plant 400,000 public trees in the city according to the recent Forest Service study and our budget only nets about 400 new trees per year.”Â
With support from volunteers, members and donors, The CPTF uses three main programs. The Creek Releaf Program helps the reforestation of streamside buffers and adjacent areas to preserve stream health and water quality.
The Trees for Change Program educates children K thru 12 about the value of trees and implements fund raising programs involving students that result in tree plantings at the schools or elsewhere within the county.
Charlotte’s Big Tree Program investigates and catalogs very large, champion–sized trees throughout the county and promotes the protection for and awareness of these valuable, unique trees as part of our urban forest.
Roti urges concerned citizens to get involved by writing to the City Council and asking them to pass a new, tougher tree ordinance that is coming out of the stakeholder process in the coming weeks. The ordinance would require saving 15 percent of trees on a development site instead of the current 10 percent. Developers have been opposed, believing it would add too much to development costs.
Roti says he’d like to see city officials adopt a better budget and fund it annually to plant more trees and to better maintain the trees we have. “I’d like to see them join a coalition of developers and the CPTF and its partners to plant trees in neighborhoods that were developed before our ordinance required trees and are therefore lacking significant canopy.”
The Charlotte Public Tree Fund would like to work with the city to restore Charlotte’s green infrastructure to be known again as “The City of Trees.”Â “I’d like to see the city adopt tree canopy goals and then join our effort to develop a multiyear plan to eliminate Charlotte’s tree deficit,” Roti concludes.
For more information on volunteering or making a donation visit www.charlottetreefund.org.