Lexington, KY – I’ve heard that it’s not a good idea to start an article on a down note, but I’m going to risk it. Keep reading, though –– it will get a whole lot better. First, the bad news. Lexington’s urban forest, which includes all of our trees, both on public and private property, is in trouble. Our canopy cover is about half what it should be and many of our existing trees are in poor health due to damage from insects and disease, improper species selection for the site, and poor planting and maintenance.
And more bad news. Of our approximately 50,000 street trees, fully one quarter are pear trees, which are now prohibited as street trees because of their poor structure and extremely invasive nature. Another 10 percent are ash trees, many of which will be lost to the emerald ash borer. You just can’t say that things are looking good.
Why should you care about the decline of our urban forest? Besides being beautiful –– a big plus –– what else do trees do for us?
Here’s some of that good news I promised:
Environmentally, trees are worth celebrating. Tree canopy and root systems slow and filter rainwater, reducing the impact of storms on our already beleaguered stormwater management systems. Trees 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.
There are also many social and economic benefits that trees provide.
Thing is, we don’t have enough trees for them to really work their environmental magic. The solution is obvious. We need to plant more trees. Not the government, not somebody else –– it’s up to each one of us to do our part. Trees are a community resource and we are the community.
To further encourage you to plant a tree or two, here’s more good news. Trees add value to your property. Thus, a tree is an investment. As with any investment, it is prudent to do your research and choose wisely.