Charlotte Environment Committee takes a tree canopy tour

On Thursday, March 14th, Charlotte City Council’s Environment Committee, as well as some key partners, embarked on a tree canopy tour to see both pilot and partner programs that are happening now. To reach the “50 by 50” goal of achieving 50% tree canopy in Charlotte by 2050, additional steps will need to be taken.

Tree Canopy Banner

The purpose of Thursday’s tour was to see these programs and for the committee and city staff to share and discuss ideas on how best to reach this goal. The stops included:

  • Possible future Urban Arboretum Trail located at West 5th Street and Frazier Ave.
  • Large Tree Assistance Pilot in the Wesley Heights neighborhood
  • Tree Save challenges in dense urban areas
  • Tree Canopy Preservation Program at the Gum Branch Conservation Area.

Large Tree Assistance Pilot

Tree Canopy Tree Assistance Program

Large Tree Assistance Program in Wesley Heights.

The Large Tree Assistance Program pilot involves helping low-income residents in the Wesley Heights area to care for, maintain and in some cases remove trees. Currently, there is no funding to expand the program to other parts of the city or replant the unhealthy or hazardous trees that were removed in this pilot phase.

Pilot Program Stats

Tree Save Challenges

Tree Save example outside of the I-277 loop

Tree Save example outside of the I-277 loop at Grandin Heights Townhomes

Flexibility was discussed as a way of improving the Tree Save program. In some urban neighborhoods and areas, more trees could be saved and a more useful configuration of space would be possible if changes were made to the Tree Save program. Developers could be more willing to set aside land that had passive uses beyond what the current Tree Save policy allows.

Tree Canopy Preservation Program

Gum Branch Conservation Area - An example of 59.7 acres of Tree Canopy preservation and a partnership with Catawba Lands Conservancy.

Gum Branch Conservation Area – An example of 59.7 acres of Tree Canopy preservation and a partnership with Catawba Lands Conservancy.

Almost 60 acres of trees are preserved at Gum Branch and have yielded nearly $1 million dollars in benefits from this site alone. The total TCPP (Tree Canopy Preservation Program) consists of 272 protected acres and 175,000 trees saved over 26 different properties across the city. That’s over $4 million dollars of annual benefits! These benefits include 23 million tons of carbon sequestered, 1.3 million gallons of stormwater intercepted and over 117,000 pounds of air pollution mitigated yearly. This program has protected more than 3 times the tree canopy than what developers alone would have.

Our Take

Sustain Charlotte supports City Council’s ambitious commitment to increasing Charlotte’s tree canopy to 50% by the year 2050. We know that this won’t be easy to do given how rapidly Charlotte’s population is growing. We support smart growth in development and transportation choices because a compact and walkable built environment protects trees and natural resources while also allowing residents to access their daily destinations without having to drive. We’re glad that the city is considering improvements to the Tree Save program that will make it easier to preserve and grow a high-quality tree canopy. We urge the city to remain committed to the 50% by 2050 goal!

A big thanks to City Arborist Tim Porter and City Tree Canopy Manager Erin Oliverio for leading the tour and providing all the data above. We’re grateful to CATS for providing transportation for the tour.

Next Environment Committee Meeting: Thursday, April 11th at 12:00pm Room 280

City Council Members on tour:

  • Dimple Ajmera, Chair
  • Larked Egleston, Vice Chair
  • Matt Newton
  • Greg Phipps

Partner Organizations Present:

  • Catawba Lands Conservancy
  • Trees Charlotte

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