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BLUE ZONES: Trees have us covered

August 27, 2018

Leslie Covell Hershberger

A Chinese Proverb says “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

This holds true for local communities as well.

A single street tree can transform enough carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide gas into oxygen to support two people for an entire year. Paved areas can increase air temperature as much as 7 degrees. Trees provide welcome shade, lowering air temperatures. Trees that shade your home can reduce energy bills from 15-35 percent. That shade also protects us from the sun and can serve as a wind block in the winter, shielding you and your home from cold.

Everyone should consider that urban street trees, those placed in a line near the street, form one of the best features in a city. In addition to the beautification they provide, they are a home for wildlife and they produce energy savings, greening and storm mitigation effects on our properties.

Trees also enhance safety, environment and economics. Street trees create a barrier between people and cars which improves safety for pedestrians. One study showed that shade from a tree can add 40-60 percent more life to asphalt which can be a huge savings to a city.

Businesses that are located on treescaped streets show higher income streams. It has been shown that retailers on tree-lined streets can charge as much as 12 percent more, which can make a big difference in the success of a business. According to national statistics, a house put on the market that has trees sells faster than those that don’t. Real estate agent based estimates of treed vs. non-treed comparable streets relates a $15,000-$25,000 increase in property value. This can add to a city’s tax base and operation budgets and is beneficial to the property owner when the property is sold.

Trees in the community also can reduce stress and improve health. Every tree is a different size, shape, color or texture and there are hundreds of species. When driving down a treed road vs. one with no trees, the ride seems shorter. Your blood pressure even goes down. Walking and bicycling is also more enjoyable on tree-lined streets. People prefer walking and bicycling on streets that have trees. This brings about an increase in outdoor activities which improves health and quality of life.

It is important for a city to have a treescape plan. Some cities are conscientious about this and even have “Tree City” designations. For other cities, it has become more of a maintenance issue than a plan. Securing the benefits of an expanded urban forest requires a concerted effort of each city with the help of volunteers from each city. Find out what your city has in place. Encourage local leaders to develop a plan or volunteer to help the city arborist or tree commission.

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