Cleveland tree crisis threatens millions of dollars in health and other benefits

City tree crisis costing millions in benefits

CLEVELAND - Cleveland is facing a budding crisis. Trees are being lost at a rapid and drastic rate, according to a 25-year plan adopted by the Cleveland City Planning Commission. 

It means Clevelanders are breathing dirty air, losing value on their homes, and losing out on an estimated $28 million in benefits a year.

"It's drastic. We're kind of at that tipping point," said Colby Sattler, a certified arborist with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. 

The Cleveland Tree Plan is a $75,000 document that is the product of a collaborative effort among the city of Cleveland, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, LAND Studio, the Holden Arboretum, and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

"This, literally, is one of the issues of our time. The importance is so far-reaching," Sattler said.

When Cleveland's tree canopy or tree coverage is compared to other major cities, it ranks near the bottom.  

"City-wide we have about a 19 percent canopy, which means 19 percent of our land is covered by trees," said Jenita McGowan, Mayor Frank Jackson's Chief of Sustainability.

Pittsburgh's tree canopy is 40 percent. Cincinnati is at 38 percent.

For Cleveland to come close to Pittsburgh, 691,000 trees -- or nearly 29,000 a year -- would have to be planted over the next 24 years.

"If we continue along with business as usual, by they year 2040, we'll be at 14 percent, which is very low," Mcgowan said.

Cleveland's loss of about 97 acres of trees a year is due to poor maintenance and deadly parasites, such as the emerald ash borer.  

The plan calls for an inventory of trees

"Right tree. right place. right purpose," says McGowan. The plan wants all Clevelanders to reap the many benefits of trees which are estimated to be worth about $28 million a year.

Among the benefits: cleaner air.

"Trees, when they're leafed out, take out dust particles, particulate matter in the air so they really act as scrubbing devices," says Joseph Gregory, of the Davey Resource Group, which is taking an extensive inventory of Cleveland city trees.

At the existing canopy, the plan believes trees absorb 415 tons of pollution a year. Trees are known to reduce asthma rates, cool neighborhoods, conserve energy, soak up storm water and also increase property values from 7 percent to 25 percent.

"Why don't Clevelanders deserve nice trees like everyone else?" asked McGowan.

In an effort to bring back Cleveland's nickname -- the Forest City -- WKYC Channel 3 is challenging companies and organizations to purchase trees and plant them.

As of this day the following eleven companies accepted the challenge:

  • Bernstein Private Management
  • Cleveland Metroparks
  • Dominion
  • Lubrizol
  • Oswald Companies 
  • PwC
  • Sherwin-Williams
  • Squire Patton Boggs
  • Westfield Insurance
  • Forest City
  • Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Cavaliers already plant trees.  Their 3's for trees program matches the number of trees planted with the number of 3-point shots made.

If you or your company or organization wish to get involved in the Cleveland Tree Plan, organizers issued the following release:

The Cleveland Tree Plan is not just a city government plan, but a community-wide collaboration to rebuild the urban forest. Everyone – from individuals to corporations – can get involved in reforesting the Forest City by planting on their private land. Indeed, private landowners make up the lion's share of land in Cleveland, more than just multi-family residential complexes, campuses, hospitals, and industrial complexes.

Attend an upcoming Sherwick Tree Steward Training hosted by Holden Arboretum and Western Reserve Land Conservancy (link: http://www.wrlandconservancy.org/whatwedo/reforest-our-city/) to learn how to properly select, plant and maintain trees on your property and in your community. You can learn more about getting involved in Cleveland’s reforestation movement by reading though the Cleveland Tree Plan (link: http://www.sustainablecleveland.org/celebration-topics/2017-vibrant-green-space/the-cleveland-tree-plan/).  

Want to plant this Arbor Day? Find the ideal species for your property (link: http://www.sustainablecleveland.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Cleveland-Appendices-FINAL_10_12_15.pdf) and follow these steps to planting your tree properly (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pv_PU_NwJVw).

 


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