By Lynn Hamilton
Cities that protect their trees have higher property values, expanding tax bases, and business prosperity. And yet, many cities have done little to nothing to protect trees on either public or private property.
One such municipality is Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville’s city council member Tom Hollander tried to pass a tree ordinance that would protect both street trees and “heritage trees” on private land. The originally proposed ordinance would have protected trees of a certain height and width, trees that provide shade and flood protection to several houses in the neighborhood, from being capriciously cut down by their owners.
But by the time council members and developers had chipped away at it, the tree ordinance passed is possibly worse than useless. It allows people to replant smaller trees than previously when they cut down trees on public land.
Every town and city needs a tree ordinance that protects trees on both private and public land, because trees positively impact economic development and protect neighborhoods from flooding and overheating.
According to New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, “One hundred mature trees catch about 139,000 gallons of rainwater per year.”1
In many parts of Louisville, rain water truly has nowhere to go but directly to our basements or, in the absence of a basement, our houses. The city’s Germantown neighborhood is a case in point. One hundred year old houses, built only four or fewer feet apart, combined with near complete deforestation of street trees leaves people with flooded cellars on a regular basis.
Many of us are also suffering the high utility costs of a treeless neighborhood: “Strategically placed trees save up to 56% on annual air-conditioning costs. Evergreens that block winter winds can save 3% on heating.”1 Trees are also well known to buffer homes from wind damage.
A replacement sapling does not fill the place of a mature tree. In most cases, it will take a sapling at least twenty years to begin to replace a mature tree.
I know that the Louisville’s mayor’s office is very interested in what is happening with the municipality’s peer cities, so I did some research on the most economically successful of these cities and found that they have all taken measures to protect their trees.
Nashville, which has gotten far ahead of Louisville in terms of population growth and economic development, requires homeowners to plant trees to restore tree density to the area: 1. “Each property . . . shall attain a tree density factor of at least fourteen units per acre using protected or replacement trees, or a combination of both.”2
Indianapolis protects all flora of more than twelve inches in height on public property: “No person shall damage, remove, deaden, destroy, break, carve, cut, deface, trim or in any way injure or interfere with any flora that is located in or on any public street, alley, right-of-way, place or park within the city without the written consent of the division of construction and business services first obtained, except as may be necessary in an emergency to remove or abate any dangerous or unsafe condition.”5
Charlotte, North Carolina protects trees on public land and private land. They recognize heritage trees which were removed from the current Louisville tree ordinance.6
Cincinnati’s tree ordinance protects public trees.3,4 Columbus, Ohio plants 2000 trees every year to mitigate loss of trees through tree removal.7 Dayton, Ohio forbids removal of public trees without a permit.8
As you can see, there is every reason to pass a tree ordinance that protects significant trees on both private and public property. Today’s recommended action: Obtain a copy of your local tree ordinance. If you don’t have one, call a city council member and ask him to start the process of creating one.
If your town already has a tree ordinance, read it and offer suggested improvements to your local leaders.
- “Economic Benefits of Trees”. Department of Environmental Conservation. New York State. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- “SUBSTITUTE ORDINANCE NO. BL2008-328”. gov. City of Nashville, TN. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- “Urban Forestry”. com. City of Cincinnati, Ohio. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- “Urban Forestry”. com. City of Cincinnati. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- “TREES AND FLORA”. com. City of Indianapolis. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- “Chapter 21 – TREES”. com. City of Charlotte, North Carolina. Retrieved 27 November2017.
- “Recreation and Parks Department”. gov. City of Columbus, Ohio. Retrieved 27 November 2017.
- “City of Dayton, Ohio Zoning Code”. org. City of Dayton, Ohio. Retrieved 27 November 2017.