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Metro Tree Canopy Assessment, Downtown Tree Inventory

August 18, 2010

New guidelines for where to plant and how to maintain trees to be available online

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – While Davidson County has a healthy existing tree canopy, greater emphasis on appropriate planting, specie selection and maintenance is needed to create and ensure a vibrant urban forest, according to the Metro Nashville Tree Canopy Assessment Project released today by the Metro Beautification and Environment Commission (MBEC) and the Metro Tree Advisory Committee (MTAC).

As a follow up to that recommendation, a new online feature will be added to the Metro Nashville Government website to assist neighborhood groups, community organizations and individual citizens who want to plant, replace and maintain trees on public rights-of-way.

Results of the Tree Canopy Assessment Project and an updated Downtown Street Tree Inventory were presented today by MTAC and other Metro officials at the Shelby Bottoms Nature Center in East Nashville. Both efforts are part of a Tree Master Plan for Downtown and Metro Nashville announced by Mayor Karl Dean in 2008. The master plan and canopy assessment were recommended by the Mayor’s Green Ribbon Committee and MTAC.

“Trees have an important impact on air quality, energy conservation, and also the aesthetic appeal of a city,” Dean said. “The suburban and rural areas of Davidson County are blessed with lush, green landscapes. But this assessment affirms that we need to do more to increase the tree canopy in urban areas, specifically downtown, and along public rights of way. By knowing where trees are most needed, we can now focus tree planting efforts in the areas where they will have the greatest impact.”

The documents will be used as tools for creating green infrastructure and future environmental development as Nashville works to meet Mayor Dean’s goal of being the greenest city in the Southeast, said MTAC Chair Carol Ashworth. “This information establishes a baseline for Nashville so we don’t lose our existing trees and helps prioritize new plantings where they can be most effective,” Ashworth said.

MTAC contracted with AMEC Earth & Environmental, Inc. to document and assess Davidson County’s tree canopy, the first ever study of its kind in Metro Nashville. The assessment’s conclusions cite a need to focus on preserving Nashville’s tree canopy by promoting the importance of tree planting, species selection and pruning, and enforcement or strengthening of existing tree-related ordinances to maintain or increase urban tree canopy.

Today's presentation included an overview of the soon-to-be-unveiled online tree planting and maintenance guidelines, developed by MBEC and Metro Public Works as a way to promote and encourage the importance of being good stewards of Nashville's urban environment, said MBEC Director Veronica Frazier.

"Many neighborhood groups and civic organizations, as well as individual residents are interested in being contributors and caretakers of Nashville's urban forest, and Public Works is pleased that we now have an online approval process for anyone wishing to plant trees in a public right-of way," Frazier said. "Maintaining a newly planted tree is the larger commitment, and this process will ensure that new trees are cared for and maintained properly."

Through the support of Nashville Electric Service, a 2004 MTAC inventory of street trees in the downtown core was updated and expanded to provide a current total number of trees (2,059) with a replacement value of $2.4 million. The revised downtown tree inventory projects a potential annual savings for the city of $71,857 by reducing the cost of energy, carbon dioxide and storm water runoff, while increasing air quality and property values. By the numbers, the downtown inventory found that the London planetree is most abundant (13.8 percent), followed by Japanese selkova (8.1 percent); Willow Oak (7.5 percent); Sweetgum (7.2 percent); and Chinese Elm (5.9 percent).

The complete Tree Canopy Assessment and Tree Inventory presentation may be viewed on the Metro Public Works website.