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Parks & People: Shade is the Secret

Park Pride of Atlanta hosted a conference this week at the Atlanta Botanical Garden with keynote speakers Peter Harnik, Director of the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence and Cynthia Nitkin, Senior Vice President at Project for Public Spaces. 

These articles by the Saporta Report summarize the conference theme, Parks and People.

Parks can ignite growth in cities 

by Maria Saporta

http://saportareport.com/parks-can-ignite-the-growth-of-cities/

As more people move to the City of Atlanta, having quality parks is key

by Saba Long

http://saportareport.com/as-more-people-move-to-the-city-of-atlanta-having-quality-parks-is-key/

Examples of the latest techniques in park building were discussed, including the Atlanta Beltline. (Another great example is Ellis Square in Savannah, a park on top of an underground parking garage.)

In her presentation, Cynthia said the key to having a great park is offering food, free wi-fi, seating and shade.

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The Fate of Trees

The Fate of Trees: How Climate Change May Alter Forests World Wide

This is an interesting read from Rolling Stone on the impact of climate change to our forests.  Its not a very rosy picture.  25% of the worlds land surface is covered by forests, which are great consumers of the carbon we produce.  Increased mortality from heat stress, drought, insects, fire, urbanization can be expected as we move towards mid century.  It becomes a clear imperative that we protect and enhance our urban forests.

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No Room For Trees in Current Development Trend

The new trend in re-development is for most lots to be teardowns (even of solid brick homes in good shape) to accommodate mega-houses with detached garages which is the new building trend. The footprints of the new homes are so large compared to the original houses that all the older trees are cut down because their root systems cover much of the lot area, and most alarmingly, there is no room for even newly replanted trees to reach the healthy canopy size of the trees lost, there is simply not enough space left on the lots.  
Previous infill in the 70's and 80's left enough space on lots for trees to grow back, this is why some of our neighborhoods that had less trees in the 70's are now recovering some canopy. But the new trend precludes canopy recovery for future decades -- which is not healthy for the City, because it exponentially increases the heat island effect, ground level ozone, poorer air quality, lower oxygen levels, and increases stormwater management problems and degradation of streams to the point of loss of species, physical loss of land, and increased infrastructure costs.
Allowing over 50% of Atlanta's landscape to be converted from green, resource-positive pervious surface (trees/forest) to resource-negative impervious surface (roads/bldgs) is simply un-sustainable, and this needs to be addressed a comprehensive way that includes the tree ordinance, zoning codes, and watershed management regulations which must work in concert rather than in conflict with each other. 
For example on the 145 Norwood site, over 30 trees are planned to be cut in order to create a detention pond. The detention pond is needed because all the large historic trees will be cut, and the ground they stand on will be replaced with so much impervious surface and stormwater runoff that a detention pond is needed. Cutting more trees in order to solve a problem caused by cutting trees just makes no sense, but it is becoming the new trend, already a common practice in the City of Decatur neighborhoods adjacent to ours.
There is no reason we can't build decent, even luxurious homes and still retain the trees that hold our soils together to prevent excessive runoff, that keep us healthy, and that make Atlanta's neighborhoods special. 
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11 Principles of Urban Tree Preservation

  1. Design with nature not against nature.
  2. Forest front property has value.
  3. If it feels wrong to exchange money for healthy trees it probably is wrong. Your intuition is valuable.
  4. Change tree ordinances to make tree removal in new development and renovations the exception, not the rule.
  5. Trees are anchors to life, life that is irreplaceable in our lifetime.
  6. Trees are like streams, we don't allow just anyone to dam or redirect them.
  7. Replants are not the equivalent to existing healthy trees.
  8. Not all trees are equal, have a way to measure species, contribution, and condition of trees.
  9. We cannot expect people not to remove trees in the Amazon when we cannot protect them in our own backyard.
  10. Developers and builders are not the enemy, we are. If you leave a $100 bill on street and it gets taken, whose fault is it?
  11. Aim high and own it, similar to how a developer wants 22 houses on one acre, we want want builders to design around healthy existing trees.

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Squandered Forest Front Property Possibilities

I am tired of trees being removed for no reason. Trees are the anchors of mini ecosystems that are irreplaceable in our lifetime, yet we choose to obliterate them at the whim of the latest fad in home building. I do not hold just builders and developers accountable, but ourselves as well. How many of us would allow the destruction of trees for a price? Often we are given the false choice of trees or new home. I know this to be a false choice, trees can be built around, it is called a basement or even better elevate the home above the critical root zone. The foot print of a home is flexible, so why do we insist on building in a way that is destructive to the trees? We could be selling forest front homes, but instead too often we choose to wipe the land clear of any living soil and topography. Trees on residential lots need to be protected, we need to make it happen. I argue that the quality of living will be higher around the trees plus we will be preserving a diminishing resource, a micro native ecosystem in the Urban Area.

Most municipalities were rezoned 30 years ago to accommodate what was important back then, building higher density along through fares. Lets rezone using tree ordinances and restricting the removal of trees in new construction.  If we cannot protect forests in our urban areas,is it fair to ask to have them protected in the Amazon. Often we feel hopeless in the onslaught of global warming, well here is your chance to have your voice heard in your local area. Ask to protect your local trees through stronger tree ordinances, where tree removal is the exception and not the rule. 

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Urban Trees make a difference across the Nation.  Over the next 50 weeks, we will be sharing one story from each state.  We'll start with Alabama.

ALABAMA
Alabama Tree Recovery – Offering Hope and Restoration for Tornado Victims

Many homeowners in Alabama can now look out their windows or down their city lanes, and see small trees growing toward a much fairer leaf-adorned sky. However, they remember the darker days, the devastating winds and toppling trees. The Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign is a story of restoration and hope, of many volunteers and organizations working together to replace trees torn and destroyed by violent winds.
In the months following April 2011 when dozens of tornados ripped across Alabama, the Alabama Forestry Commission joined forces with the Arbor Day Foundation to begin a multi-year, large-scale initiative to restore trees to the stricken communities. Through the Campaign, over 60 communities in 24 counties received seedlings and assistance in replanting their lost urban forest. After its third and final year of distribution and planting, more than 85,000 native tree seedlings of more wind resistant species will be in the ground, growing to replace those lost to catastrophic winds.
Although Alabama Forestry Commission employees and Arbor Day members delivered the seedlings, the number of trees would not have been planted without countless local volunteers and homeowners who applied their own sweat equity and learned the proper way to locate and plant trees. The campaign was made possible by financial contributions from individuals, private foundations, and corporate sponsors across the nation and globe including Alabama Power Foundation, Apache Corporation, Australia-based Cotton On Foundation, Daniel Foundation of Alabama, Davey Tree Expert Company, FedEx, NASCAR, and Protective Life Insurance.
In the words of one resident, “The outpouring of volunteer energy following the storm needed to be matched by an outpouring of goods and ideas. One such match was certainly the Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign. In addition to local donations, [it] helped provide the first signs of hope to our area. I describe the transformation of Tuscaloosa as running from devastation immediately following the storm, to desolation as the debris was removed and the loss and emptiness became more fully apparent. The arrival of new trees into yards where houses were being rebuilt and onto lots where the future was, and even now may remain uncertain, brought back dreams and hope…. The trees symbolize perfectly the progress we make as a society to create vast and wonderful improvements to our lives, a process which takes vision and work over time. I appreciate the resources the Tree Recovery Campaign has provided to the process.”
Another resident noted, “It was remarkable to hear the many associations that people had with their trees. They would say how they miss the shade their trees gave during the summer, how much hotter their homes are and how much more expensive it is for them to run the air conditioner. ... How they missed the birds and wildlife that used to come to their yard, but they haven’t seen after the storms. How they were surprised at how much more water runs off their property and practically floods their streets, and how fast the rain water flows and washes away areas of their yard and driveway. It was amazing to hear the many memories people had associated with their trees and their emotional ties to those trees: kids playing and climbing on them, feeders and art hanging from them, photos of families (generations, even) that were taken underneath them.”
While the cleanup and rebuilding in these communities will continue for years to come, the opportunity to support the Alabama Tree Recovery Campaign remains. For every dollar donated, a seedling will be added to those already planted and help in the healing process.

For more information: www.forestry.alabama.gov/TreeRecoveryCampaign.aspx

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Paying for Green Infrastructure

Getting to Green: Paying for Green Infrastructure, Finance  Options and Resources for Local Decision-Makers summarizes various funding sources that can be used to support stormwater management programs or finance individual projects.  Each type of funding source is illustrated by several municipal programs and contains a list of additional resources.  A comparative matrix is included which describes  the advantages and disadvantages of the various funding sources.

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Tree Recompense & Developing Differently

Recompense in most tree ordinances are gravely understated. The recompense for the removal of five trees on a recently permitted one acre construction site was $5000. The five trees happened to be healthy white oaks, one with a diameter of 59 inches, with potential life spans of hundreds of more years.  The ecosystem benefits (green house gas mitigation, air quality improvements, and storm water interception) using i-tree averages more than $1500 per tree annually. That would be $7.5K annually in perpetuity for the life of the trees. Moreover, using the Guide for Plant Appraisal-9th Edition and applying the trunk formula method, commonly used to appraise the monetary value of trees considered too large to be replaced with nursery or field grown stock, the 59 inch white oak alone would be valued at $70,977.00. My point being that a $5000 recompense is ridiculous. I equate it to going to your bank and depositing $1000 and then the next day asking for $70,000 saying you are entitled to the 125 years of compound interest in one day.

The point of recompense for me, is to encourage alternative designs that work around trees. Some municipalities have adopted conservation overlay districts allowing more flexibility on setbacks and building height allowing more open space in exchanged for denser development. I have also witnessed these districts misapplied. Ultimately, to build with trees we need to develop differently. Banks want to finance the same cookie cutter approach but often that approach comes at the expense of the land and trees. I believe demand is out there for designs that work with nature and not against it. To do this, we need a recompense that reflects more the cost of the loss than is currently being applied. By readjusting recompense to reflect the true cost of trees we better balance the need to live with nature in urban areas with the need to build new homes. 

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The Jewish New Year of the Trees is celebrated on February 4th.

This Jewish Arbor Day falls in the middle of the Jewish month of Shvat, the 15th day of the month. Today, this holiday is often celebrated by planting saplings and also by participating in a seder-meal in which the produce of trees, including fruits and nuts, are eaten.

The “My Jewish Learning” website provides this information: “Planting a tree–a concrete, practical act–has represented hope since ancient times. On Tu Bishvat in Palestine, trees were planted for children born during the previous year: for a boy, a cedar, with the wish that the child would grow to be tall and upright, for a girl, a cypress, which was graceful and fragrant. Later, branches from the cypress and cedar of a bride and groom were used to make the huppah (canopy) for their wedding ceremony. The planting was associated with two of the most important times in an individual’s life, birth and marriage, two occasions when we concentrate on the possibilities for the future.”

Here’s a link to another article about the holiday.
By Susan Larson, Gwinnett Daily Post: Putting down roots for a green history month.

To plant a tree in Israel, go to the Jewish National Fund at jnf.org.

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Trees Win


Last week the trees won for the first time in my 16 years advocating for them. A small but focused group has been working to protect healthy existing significant trees in new developments. As the economy has picked up more and more large healthy trees are being destroyed as single lots are subdivided into many lots or an old home is demoed to build a bigger home on a smaller lot. Typically, little consideration has been given to healthy significant trees as they require extra consideration when building around them. They also interfere with changing the grade on the site. They ironically interfere with storm water detention ponds. I say ironically because, as we know trees intercept and transpire water, and they are being replaced by the antiquated and expensive detention strategy. Most tree ordinances allow their removal in exchange for replants that could take 100s of years to come close to the benefits of the trees removed.

However, for the first time to my recollection, a development was temporarily stopped in its tracks for 7 large white oaks on 1 acre. The local tree commission voted that the project be deferred for 120 days for time to consult with the legal department and/or submission of a more environmentally sensitive design. While only a temporary victory, the small group hopes to pursue alternatives that will accommodate the trees and a portion of the development. The developer was not happy, and is appealing the decision. The small group will also pursue that.

The trees were originally in the backyard of a single family home. It was later purchased by investors and subdivided into 11 lots by building a street with a col de sac  down the middle of the property. A detention pond was built in the back which from a land use perspective is like two more houses being built. In the plan presented, all but two of the trees were slated for removal including a champion tree 59 inch white oak. The fee for removal of the five trees was $5000.00 which could be fulfilled by planting trees back on the property equal to that amount.

What made the difference in this case? First, the trees had representation from an attorney. Typically the trees cannot afford an attorney as their public benefit is spread over many people, and those interests are not usually coordinated. Developers almost always have an attorney. Second, the trees had a good argument. In this case, while the developer met the detail of the ordinance (paid $5000), they did not meet the intent, which is stated under the purpose of this ordinance as: "To protect environmentally sensitive areas." An arborist was hired to present the benefits of the these particular trees and uniqueness as a sensitive environmental area concluding: "This stand of white oaks is both unique and healthy in its current state. Its most important tree, the 59-inch champion, has a potential life span of 100’s of years if left undisturbed. The other, younger white oaks are all in excellent condition and in the prime of their lives."

Much of the urban forest has been destroyed in similar boom economies, but as we recognize the important benefits of larger trees and the near impossibility to replace them at a time when they are most needed, this case might be a sign of the times. A time where development works with large existing healthy trees balancing the needs of development with the benefits of sensitive and irreplaceable natural resources.

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Press Release Contact: Michelle Sutton, City Trees Editor: citytreeseditor@gmail.com

The Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA), comprised of urban forestry professionals worldwide, has chosen yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) as its 2015 Urban Tree of the Year.

The yearly selection must be adaptable to some harsh growing conditions and have strong ornamental traits. It is often a species or cultivar considered underutilized by urban foresters. The Tree of the Year program has been running for 19 years, and recent honorees include ‘Vanessa’ parrotia (2014), live oak (2013), Accolade elm (2012), and goldenraintree (2011).

Columbia, Missouri Natural Resources Supervisor Brett O’Brien says, “Remarkably adaptable to our state’s weather and site conditions, yellowwood is a tree which is not particularly rare but in my opinion is certainly not planted in our area nearly enough. It could be that it is not popularized because in un-irrigated turf areas it’s apt to be a little slow; in my experience I have found that in landscape beds or irrigated areas it grows fairly quickly.”

Indeed, the consensus is that yellowwood does well in a variety of urban conditions so long as it gets adequate water. It’s best used in parks, wide tree lawns, or, with pruning, in narrow tree lawns. Yellowwood is hardy in Zones 4a to 8b and is native to East North America. It is a medium-maturing tree in the legume family that matures at 30-50 feet tall and 40 to 55 feet wide. It can handle high soil pH (up to 8.2) and is considered relatively pest free. Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute says yellowwood is easy to transplant B&B or under 2-inch caliper bare root.

This tree has elegant year-round beauty. O’Brien admires the “pendulous fragrant white flowers, reminiscent of wisteria” and “the smooth, elephant-grey to light brown bark of the tree’s trunk as well as the lustrous reddish-brown stems.” He says that a favorite yellowwood of his is located in downtown Columbia on the west side of a red brick building, in an unforgiving site where the tree spends the early morning in deep shade and late afternoon in blazing sunlight. Nevertheless, the yellowwood has thrived. 

O’Brien says, “Yellowwood trees admittedly have a maddening branching habit, generally doing fine until the tree is about chest height, when multiple leaders and included bark become quite common. Judicious and timely pruning can help, though at a certain point, it is probably reasonable to just accept that good branching structure is not this tree’s strong suit. Yellowwood’s other positive attributes clearly outweigh this one idiosyncrasy and I would suggest that the value and benefit this beautiful tree provides makes consideration for planting worthwhile in many urban areas.” 

A pink-flowering cultivar ‘Perkins Pink’ is available but may be challenging to find.

The SMA recognizes the underutilized and strongly ornamental yellowwood for its service to urban forests and encourages its use when matched appropriately to site and as part of a diverse urban tree inventory.

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Urban Nature as a Health Resource

Yale is conducting a conference in New Haven on the impact of our disconnection with nature.  I love how the abstract starts with 100K Years ago.

ABSTRACT
Over the past 100,000 years we have connected with the natural environment to ensure that we not only survive as a species but that we thrive and dominate. However despite our undoubted success and with rising life expectancy we have “created” a new sickness that is killing people in greater numbers than at any time in history. Non Communicable diseases have the common risk factor of chronic inflammation which is strongly associated with chronic stress. There is good empirical evidence that when we become isolated or disconnected from a supportive natural environment we become stressed. In this talk I will argue that it is our disconnection from nature that is driving this epidemic of Type II diabetes, obesity, depression etc. Our healthcare systems are not fit for purpose in tackling these diseases. Therefore to consign these diseases to history requires a revolution of new thinking, with nature at the very centre of urban design, healthcare, technology and education.

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Trees not only inhabit the soil, they have a symbiotic relationship with the microbes and fungi that live in the soil.  They also serve as anchors to the soil around us, especially in the urban environment. Well it turns out the trees are onto something.  Scientists are going where no human has gone before, into the microbes of soil. It turns out that 99% microbes can not be duplicated under usual laboratory conditions, but only in native conditions. However, one scientist has figured a way to alter the laboratory conditions to replicate the soils native environment and study some of the microbial species. One result has been the discovery of bacteria resistant antibiotics.  Below is the New York Times article discussing it.

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Ice Storm Preparation- Part Two

Time to get started with your ice storm preparation. There’s lots to do, so let’s take it in steps. There are four prime essentials for ice storm preparation.

  • Light
  • Heat
  • Electricity
  • Food

 In Part 2 we will look at the first two main categories for ice storm preparation.

 The prime essentials for ice storm preparation

Light
You don’t want to be stumbling around in the dark. Not being able to see adds to the chaos. You can break things. You can hurt yourself. And you can get overwhelmed with the sudden lifestyle change. Here’s a list of light sources you can use.

  • Candles. This is very basic. Get large candles. They last longer. Table candles work but don’t last long. However, you might have a few for candlelight dinners. Romantic touches could add a delightful ambience when everything else is stressful.
  • Lanterns. Kerosene lanterns will give you light but they are sometimes stinky. They are dangerous if tipped over. Get florescent or LED types. They come in different sizes. Get a big one for the community room. Get smaller ones for individual rooms. These lanterns last for many days. Get a spare battery for each lantern.
  • Flashlights. Everyone needs their own flashlight. If you already have flashlights, test them. How many times have you picked up a flashlight only to find it is dead? Get the flashlights corralled and test all of them. Get spare batteries for each flashlight. Buy a few extra bulbs. Maybe have a smaller flashlight in each room. How about a headlamp? These are handy because they are hands free.
  • Gas powered generators. This is the heavy-duty cure to light. We’ll talk about generators later.

Heat

It’s going to get cold. It doesn’t matter how heavily insulated you home might be, if you don’t maintain a certain level of heat it will get cold. Here’s some things you can do to prepare.

Furnace

Furnaces make heat. Most are powered by gas, some are powered by wood. One thing all furnaces have in common: fan motors. It takes a fan to move the heated air through the heating ducts to your living space. Fans are powered by electricity. If you don’t have the fans working, you don’t have an operational furnace.

 Here’s what I did. I got an electrician in and installed a receptacle box on the line that feeds the fan motor. Then the wire going to the fan motor got a plug. If the power goes out, I can unplug the fan motor line out of the receptacle and plug it into an extension cord that goes to the gas generator. My heating system is now operational again. Fan motors are small. They don’t draw lots of power. But little fans do big jobs, like keeping living spaces warm.

 Fireplaces: wood and gas

  •  Gas. You are in luck. Your gas line will not be affected by ice storms. Gas is odorless and has all the romance of logs if you have a good looking fake log arrangement.
  •  Wood. They take more work. Great if you are a woodsman at heart. Fires take a lot of tending. You have to keep an eye on them as well. Logs can roll out onto the floor. They create ash that gets on everything.

 These are great.

Wood Stoves

  • Make sure the stove pipes are clean of creosote. You don’t want a stove pipe fire. Clean once a year if you use the stove often.

 Wood

  •  Have a stack of split wood near the house. A long walk over icy surfaces with an armload of wood can lead to falls. How about a wheelbarrow? Have it turned upside down before the ice storm.
  • Have at least a half cord of split wood. A cord if you live in the North Country.
  • Use the uniform split pieces during the day. Separate a pile of “night wood” pieces. Those are those large pieces of crotch wood that don’t split well. They burn slowly. Fill the stove up with them when you retire and you’ll have a big bed of red hot coals next morning.

 Clothing

  •  Look at your cold weather clothing. Go shopping if you don’t think you have enough. Down vests are great around the house.
  • Know where your blankets are. Down blankets are the warmest. Wool blankets are also good.

 Have I missed anything? Tell us here. 

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