Durham County

Tree forum advocates seek to establish vision for city canopies

A public Trees Over Durham forum is scheduled Tuesday, April 25 to discuss a future plan for Durham trees. Tree advocates want to ensure that city has a plan that maintains Durham’s canopy and provides for the planting of trees in poor neighborhoods, which historically haven’t benefited from tree canopies.
A public Trees Over Durham forum is scheduled Tuesday, April 25 to discuss a future plan for Durham trees. Tree advocates want to ensure that city has a plan that maintains Durham’s canopy and provides for the planting of trees in poor neighborhoods, which historically haven’t benefited from tree canopies. The News and Observer, file photo

A local group wants to know your vision for trees in the Bull City.

Durham Tree Advocates, a grassroots group focused on trees and social justice, and others have organized a 5 1/2-hour forum Tuesday, April 25 for residents to learn about trees in the Bull City and what they want to see in the future.

The 2:30 to 8 p.m. forum includes presentations on the importance of trees, a panel discussion on tree benefits, management and social justice issues, a visioning session and breakout discussions.

The keynote speaker is Dave Cable, co-founder of TreesCharlotte, a public-private collaboration to increase and diversify Charlotte's urban forest by planting 500,000 trees by 2050.

The event also includes a free dinner and child care for participants who register by Sunday, April 23.

The state of Durham’s trees has been an ongoing conversation centered on the city’s dying willow oaks, which were planted in the 1920s to 1940s and have a roughly 100-year life span. Studies have also highlighted a lack of trees in poorer neighborhoods.

Last year, the city used about $45,000 to pay for a willow and water oaks street tree inventory within a certain area and a citywide tree canopy assessment.

The studies sought to help the city quantify the street trees to allow officials to make data driven decisions about managing its urban forest and setting future planting schedules.

The results showed that the city’s overall existing canopy covers about 52 percent of the city, compared to Raleigh’s 54 percent and Charlotte’s 46 percent, according to a city report.

The average total additional plantable space totaled about 20 percent of the city.

The inventory of 3,460 willow oak and water trees found that the majority, 3,186, were in good or fair condition. About 200 were in poor condition and 30 were dead.

About 100 of the trees need to be removed immediately and 200 need to be removed over the next five years, the study found.

To maintain the existing canopy, the report recommended developing a plan for the urban forest to more evenly distribute the tree canopy across the city.

The plan should involve a variety of city departments, university partners and others, the report said.

And that is exactly what Durham Tree Advocates is hoping to accomplish by presenting the “Trees over Durham Forum,” said Katie Rose Levin, a member of the group and an arborist.

The city out is going to lose its canopy quickly, “if we don’t do some pretty aggressive planning,” she said.

And trees play an important role in people’s lives, from affecting property values to their health, she said.

“Trees are actually important technology that makes us physically healthy,” Levin said.

The city recently received an about $80,000 grant through the Duke Energy Foundation, which could help pay for about 150 new trees in the city.

Forum speakers will provide some baseline data on trees and strategies that have helped developed canopies in diverse communities.

“The goals of the forum is community buy in for trees in Durham and a statement to the city of what we want to see them doing going forward,” Levin said.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges

Go and Do

What: Trees Over Durham forum

When: 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, April 25

Where: Durham Arts Council, 120 Morris Street

Dinner and child care will be available for registered participants. Spanish translators will also be there.

To register, go to http://bit.ly/2ph15sw.

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