Let’s get to the root of it and talk about trees. I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’ve all walked down a tree-lined street at one time or another. If you’re lucky, the trees were mature and have formed a canopy over the street creating a dreamy environment to pass through. Let’s not leaf out the the gorgeous orange groves around us, and the beautiful smell of orange blossoms in the breeze. Trees provide oxygen, shade on a sunny day, a sturdy branch for a child’s swing and you can’t have a super cool treehouse without the tree. I don’t want to bark at you, but I think we could always use more trees.
According to Jeff Speck’s 2018 book, Walkable City Rules, 101 Steps to Making Better Places, there is no better use of public funds. He writes:
STREET TREES PROTECT SIDEWALKS
Like parked cars, mature street trees form a sturdy barrier between moving vehicles and pedestrians.
STREET TREES REDUCE CRASHES
A study along Orlando’s Colonial Drive compared a segment of roadway with street trees and other vertical objects along it to a segment without. It found that the segment with no trees experienced 45% more injurious crashes and many more fatal crashes: six vs zero.
STREET TREES ABSORB STORMWATER
A typical mature tree absorbs about the first half inch of each rainfall that hits it.
STREET TREES ABSORB UV AND POLLUTANTS
In addition to keeping ultraviolet rays from reaching the ground, street trees absorb a tremendous amount of airborne carbon dioxide - ten times more than trees located farther from the roadways.
STREET TREES IMPROVE PROPERTY VALUE
A study conducted by the Wharton School of Business found that street trees increase home prices by 9%. Such improved valuations translate directly into increased property tax revenue. The City of Portland found that, for this reason, its investment in tree planting and maintenance pays off at a ratio of twelve to one.
STREET TREES IMPROVE RETAIL
From Nantucket to Beverly Hills, the most desirable Main Street districts in North America are, with few exceptions, characterized by consistently planted street trees. One study found that shops on streets with good tree cover earn 12% more income. Visibility-seeking merchants who fight for tree removal forget that much main-street shopping is experienced-based. With cheaper prices and better convenience on Amazon, providing a great environment is becoming central to retail viability.
STREET TREES IMPROVE PUBLIC HEALTH
Multiple studies have shown that regular exposure to trees prolongs life, aids mental health, reduces asthma, obesity, stress and heart disease, and basically just makes us happier.
What can we do?
We can plant trees at home! Not only will they provide shade in this Florida heat, but if you’re lucky, they can also provide food. (I can’t seem to keep anything alive?) Polk County is in Plant Hardiness Zones 9 and 10. Some of the trees we will have the most luck growing are cedar, crapemyrtle, cypress, magnolia, live oak or pomegranate to name a few.
The public can also donate to the Carl J Strang Jr. Urban Tree Canopy Fund. Main Street Winter Haven, Inc. created and manages this fund. I talked with Executive Director Anita Strang about when and why this all began. “Main Street Winter Haven announced the Carl J Strang Jr. Urban Tree Canopy Fund in September of 2018. This fund was created in response to recognizing the benefits of increasing our urban forest. It will be a sustainable amenity that delivers shade, environmental and economic benefits, for generations to come while creating an inviting atmosphere. We plan to work alongside and complement the work the City of Winter Haven is already doing. MSWH believes that there is strength in partnerships when a common goal is in place. Contributions to support this effort are greatly appreciated.”
Contributions will support their efforts, and at the same time you can acknowledge a loved one, to commemorate a special event or leaving a lasting gift to the community. Call (863) 295-9422 or go online to www.mainstreetwh.com and search Carl J Strang Jr. Urban Canopy Fund to donate.
Did you know?
While not the tallest tree or the widest or even the oldest, General Sherman is thought to be the largest single stem tree by sheer volume. This giant sequoia in California is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old, it’s 275-feet tall and has a trunk diameter of 25-feet. Its total volume is estimated at an incredible 1487 meters squared. General Sherman’s largest branches are wider in diameter than most regular tree trunks. The largest of these branches fell down in a winter storm in 2006, and it was recorded as being over 7-feet in diameter and more than 98-feet long.
Apollo 14 launched on January 31, 1971. Five days later Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell walked on the Moon while Stuart Roosa, a former U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper, orbited above in the command module. Packed in small containers in Roosa’s personal kit were hundreds of tree seeds, part of a joint NASA/USFS project. Upon return to Earth, the seeds were germinated by the Forest Service. Known as the “Moon Trees,” the resulting seedlings were planted throughout the United States (often as part of the nation’s bicentennial in 1976) and the world. They stand as a tribute to astronaut Roosa and the Apollo program.