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.
There are also notable social contributions. Trees reduce crime. In one study, apartment buildings with high levels of greenery had 52 percent fewer crimes than those without any trees. Buildings with medium amounts of greenery had 42 percent fewer crimes. Trees reduce noise pollution by absorbing sound.
But doesn’t Lexington have enough trees? No, not even close. American Forests (americanforests.org), the nation’s oldest nonprofit citizen conservation organization, recommends an average 40 percent tree canopy cover for cities east of the Mississippi. Our tree canopy cover is at less than 20 percent and is in decline. About 9 percent of our street trees are ash species and most of these will be lost to the emerald ash borer. So our urban forest is in poor shape and the future is looking worse still – unless we do something about it.
Unfortunately, our city, like many others, has serious funding issues. The Lexington Fayette Urban County Government’s (LFUCG) urban forestry program manages an estimated 53,000 street trees, as well as the uncounted trees in our parks, medians and greenways. After paying for staff time (and staffing has been reduced), there is little funding left to replace or remove compromised trees, let alone add to our tree inventory.
It is important that we start to view our city’s trees as a community resource. We all need to plant trees for the benefit of ourselves and each other. We all need to take care of the trees we have, knowing the community benefits they offer. If we let our urban forest continue to decline, Lexington will have more stormwater problems, the air pollution will increase and the local temperatures will rise.
Trees make a difference – and it’s up to us, you and me, to contribute to the greening of our home. Don’t ignore the call. It’s fall – a great time to plant trees.