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Protecting Tree Canopies Requires a Proactive Approach

May 9, 2014
McDonough Mayor Billy Copeland (center) helped to celebrate the city’s recent Tree City USA designation with city building official Mark Dobson (left) and citizen volunteer David White (right), who both spent many hours working on the requirements that must be fulfilled prior to the city receiving designation. McDonough is one of more than 130 Georgia cities designated as a Tree City USA.

After the February ice storms hit north Georgia, Rome Arborist Terry Paige knew there would be damage to some of the city’s trees, as extreme weather is often harmful to trees in urban environments. However, the regular attention Paige and his staff pay to the city’s trees helped to lessen the blow. 

“We try to be proactive as possible,” Paige said. “We head off any problems we see coming with our trees.” 

For instance, when he realized that several trees in downtown Rome were planted too close together Paige took decisive action. 

“The competition was causing all the trees to suffer,” Paige explained. “We thinned the trees out so there was a proper distance between the remaining trees. We then had an aeration of the soil and injected some bio stimulates in the root systems to help the trees become stronger.”

Maintaining a lush tree canopy—Rome has 47 percent tree coverage—has several benefits for Rome, Paige said. 

“I think it is very inviting to have trees where you shop, live and work,” Paige said. “In July, people want to go to the shade tree. Trees are soothing to the soul so we try to take care of our trees as best we can. We have trees growing in an urban environment, so we have to do things to sustain them. It is something as a city we have chosen to do.” 

For the past 24 years, Rome has also been a Tree City USA. Communities achieve Tree City USA status by meeting four core standards of sound urban forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrating Arbor Day. There at least 138 Georgia cities with Tree City USA status. 

Gary White, program manager with the Georgia Forestry Commission’s Sustainable Community Forestry Program said cities concerned about tree canopies should also take an inventory of all trees on city-owned property. 

“One of the things we have been working on with communities is developing a management plan to identify trees around critical infrastructure like fire stations and emergency institutions,” White said. “Trees around those areas would create serious problems if they were to become damaged.” 

Trees contribute a lot to a community and are an essential component of a sustainable city, White noted.

“Trees provide a sense of place, quality of life, shade and storm water management,” he said. “Shade created by tree canopies can help abate high temperatures and make our downtowns more hospitable and inviting. Community trees help with storm water management by intercepting rainfall and helping return it to the water table, which reduces stormwater detention costs. 

“Likewise, streetscape trees in commercial areas attract shoppers, which can increase economic vitality, help stabilize struggling downtowns and increase sales tax revenue. Additionally, community green space and pocket parks create and enhance a layer of community character that helps define the city.” 

Becoming a Tree City USA is a proactive step in the right direction, White said, and the Georgia Forestry Commission website provides information to help a city get started. 

“A lot of folks react to tree issues rather than plan,” White said. “Cities have to treat its trees just like the rest of its infrastructure. Protecting the tree canopy comes down to involvement of the elected officials, public works departments and residents.”
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