|May 20, 2010 -
City Council voted to accept a $15,000 grant from the Knoxville Utilities Board Tuesday that will help the city complete an inventory of its trees and develop a comprehensive plan for managing its forest resources.
The city had previously obtained a $30,000 grant from the State’s Division of Forestry for the project and added another $30,000 in city funds to match that. KUB’s support brings the total to $75,000, and is the final piece the city needed to pay for the survey.
“We appreciate KUB’s generosity, they’ve always been good partners with us,” said David Brace, deputy director of Public Service.
Brace said the city plans to do the assessment of publicly-owned trees along city streets and boulevards, in parks, green spaces, city right-of-ways and downtown sometime this fall.
The results will be used to develop a comprehensive plan - officially a municipal forest resource management plan - to improve Knoxville’s urban canopy.
“We have had a somewhat reactive forestry management program,” Brace said, “and what we’re trying to do is become more proactive. We want to get the point where we can take steps now to address issues before they become problems.”
“A comprehensive plan will tell us where we do have declining tree canopy so we can strategically plant trees in that area – the right kind of trees – to sustain canopy,” he added.
The survey will also give the department a snapshot of the overall health of Knoxville’s public trees.
“We have a general sense that we have an aging and declining urban canopy, particularly in the downtown area where a lot of trees were planted just before the World’s Fair (in 1982), but a lot of that is anecdotal,” Brace said. “This will give us hard data we can use to make good decisions.”
The city has lost some large canopy trees in recent years, many of those to a combination of age and a significant drought in 2007-2008.
The Public Service Department has a Horticulture Division that includes a fulltime tree crew responsible for maintenance and care of trees located in the city’s right-of-ways, parks and green spaces. The group normally plants about 350 new trees a year though, thanks to some state funds, it has planted 420 new trees this year. Those range from redbuds, dogwoods, crepe myrtles and holly trees to maples, oaks, magnolias and a even an occasional hemlock.
In some areas, like downtown, the survey would record the age and condition of every single tree. In most areas, however, there would be a sampling of trees to determine the general health of the urban forest at that location.
Knoxville has been designated as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation for 19 consecutive years in recognition of its commitment to urban forestry and it has a very active tree board.
“We have a good program right now, but we always want to get better,” Brace said. “Trees are important to the appearance of our city, they add to the character of our historic neighborhoods, trees provide cooling shade that can have a significant impact on energy use and they provide habitat for wildlife. Trees make a significant contribution to the city’s image and its quality of life and we’ll always focus on practicing good urban forestry.”