Lexington, KY – The Lexington Fayette Urban County Government’s (LFUCG) urban forestry program has shrunk from seven full-time staff positions to four, to manage an estimated 53,000 street trees, as well as the uncounted trees in our parks, medians and greenways. After paying for staff time, there is little funding left to replace or remove compromised trees, let alone add to our tree inventory. There is simply too much to deal with: 10 percent of our street trees fall into the category of dead, dying or hazardous.
Karen Angelucci sees this situation quite clearly from her position as chair of the LFUCG Tree Board, now in its 13th year. The tree board “acts in an advisory capacity only, monitoring our trees and keeping our city government abreast of important urban forestry issues,” Angelucci said. “The tree board has no real power; by law it cannot raise money, and it has very little funding.”
Clearly, this state of affairs does not bode well for us or for our trees. Angelucci and three other concerned citizens have formed a non-profit organization, the Lexington Tree Foundation (LTF), with a mission to place the health of our urban forest front and center, to take its rightful place as one of the key issues this city needs to address. Karen is joined by Dave Leonard, a well-known and respected consulting arborist; Sue Beard, a local Realtor who chaired the Land and Nature Trust of the Bluegrass committee which wrote Lexington’s Street Tree Ordinance; and Yvette Hurt, who practiced law with the Environmental Protection Cabinet and is now on the LFUCG Tree Board.
Why this big concern about our trees? Beyond the obvious benefit of their beauty, what do trees do for us?
Environmentally, they are big players. Tree canopy (the layer of leaves, branches and stems of trees that cover the ground when viewed from above) and root systems slow and filter rainwater, thus reducing the impact of storms on our already beleaguered stormwater management systems. Research indicates that 100 mature tree crowns intercept about 100,000 gallons of rainfall per year, reducing runoff and providing cleaner water. Trees store carbon, remove many pollutants from the air and produce oxygen. And they have a marked cooling effect. As few as three trees properly positioned can save the average household between $100 and $250 annually in air conditioning costs.
The economic impact of trees is also notable. Studies report increased worker satisfaction and productivity. Trees increase the revenue received from retail and other business locations. Research shows that shoppers in well-landscaped business districts are willing to pay more for parking and up to 12 percent more for goods and services. Want to calculate the economic benefits of a specific tree in Lexington? Go to www.treebenefits.com/calculator, enter your zip code, and follow the directions.