Just as streets, sidewalks, public buildings and recreational facilities are a part of a community’s infrastructure, so are publicly owned trees, “the urban forest.” We tend to take the beauty and utility of trees for granted, even though the links between community development and trees are clear and well-documented. The scope and condition of a community’s trees is usually the first impression a community projects to its visitors. A community’s urban forest is an extension of its pride and community spirit. Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism. Commercial retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent. Real estate values increase by up to 20 percent when trees beautify a property or neighborhood.
Trees have valuable environmental and social benefits as well. The presence of trees helps to control urban air pollution. Trees contribute directly to decreased stormwater runoff and erosion, directly improving the quality of streams and rivers, such as the Flint River watershed. Studies have shown that for every 5 percent of tree cover added to a community, storm water runoff is reduced by approximately 2 percent. Consequently, urban forests assist with flooding and stormwater management. Urban forests are also vital to the psychological well-being of residents by creating a sense of place and offering shaded recreational areas. Particularly in our southern landscape, they are extremely important in reducing elevated temperatures created by urban environments composed of buildings and pavements.
Trees are important community assets that require care and maintenance the same as other public property. They provide services to our community which improve the environment and our quality of life. Frank Lloyd Wright summarized the importance of protecting and planting trees for our collective social interests when he penned, “The best friend on earth of man is the tree. When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources on the earth.”
Join the city of Albany, Keep Albany-Dougherty Beautiful and The Albany Tree Board to celebrate Arbor Day on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. in a tree-planting event on the 400 block of Westover Boulevard.
L. KATHERINE KIRKMAN
EDITOR’S NOTE: L. Katherine Kirkman is chair of the Albany Tree Board.