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June 17, 2009

Forest Management Plan presented to Council; Updated data shows City already exceeds its tree canopy goal

Charlottesville Tomorrow
By Julia Glendening
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

On June 15, 2009, Brian Daly, Charlottesville’s Acting Parks and Recreation Director, and Chris Gensic, the Park and Trail Planner, presented the Urban Forest Management Plan to Charlottesville City Council. The plan would enhance and preserve forested areas in the City through monitoring existing trees, planting new trees, and improving public education about the benefits of urban forests. The 2007 Comprehensive Plan established a goal of 40% canopy coverage throughout the City. Gensic said the City has exceeded this overall goal, but some forested areas still need to be expanded in order to have consistent canopy coverage in all areas of the City. The Council approved of the Plan and said they looked forward to seeing how the program could improve Charlottesville’s urban forests.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090615-urban-forest-plan

Download Download the draft of the Urban Forest Management Plan

20090615-canopy-cover
This map was compiled using aerial photography

Gensic described past efforts of Parks and Recreation, such as a tree inventory, a parkland study of invasives, and a tree canopy study. In 2002, a street tree inventory began that recorded species and location of trees on public lands, which was followed up by another inventory in 2008. In 2007, Charlottesville received a Tree City USA designation, a program of the Arbor Day Foundation, recognizing the City’s urban forestry protection efforts. The University of Virginia also helped with forestry efforts: a tree canopy study done by a class in 2006 found the City to have 31-32% tree canopy coverage. However, a 2008 aerial photo analysis showed the City at 46% canopy coverage, exceeding the Comprehensive Plan goal of 40%. Gensic emphasized the Urban Forest Management Plan would help all neighborhoods reach the 40% goal.

“We have actually more tree canopy than buildings, roads, and parking lots combined within the city limits,” said Daly.

Daly stated a photo analysis would have to be done every three to four years to keep track of tree canopy change. He recommended the Council should adopt the plan and establish forest goals by district and zone. He said canopy goals and planting plans should be developed according to the type of area, such as urban, suburban, or entrance corridor.

Daly also presented six key elements of the Urban Forest Management Plan. The strategies included preserving and protecting existing forested areas by increasing land acquisition and specify detailed tree protection practices during construction. They aim to enhance and restore forest quality through the containment of invasives and the addition of trails. Forests will be expanded by aiming to exceed the tree canopy goal in every neighborhood. Trees will also be monitored to document their health and track the progress of the forests. There will be an increase in education and outreach with planting and volunteer projects. Finally, the plan will be sustained with codes and guides for citizens and developers.

Mayor Dave Norris commended Parks and Recreation on putting together the plan and said it demonstrated a great deal of detailed analysis. “I got a real sense from you tonight that this is just the beginning and you’re really committed to seeing this plan put into effect,” said Norris. At an April 2009 press conference, Norris outlined his specific priorities for a “Greener Charlottesville,” including an increase in tree canopy.

20090615-Daly-Gensic
Brian Daly (left) and Chris Gensic (right) of Parks and Recreation

Councilor Satyendra Huja asked Daly if trees could be protected on private property. Daly responded that the most they could do was educate the property owner about how to properly care for and maintain trees. He also said part of the plan is to look at legal solutions for tree protection, possibly leading to new legislation.

Councilor David Brown reiterated this point and said he hoped Parks and Recreation could encourage private tree planting. Daly said there are grant opportunities to obtain trees for public distribution and he agreed the citizen must be educated. Brown questioned if the number of trees developers are required to plant should be pushed higher and recommended it as a topic to be looked at in the future.

Norris agreed requirements should be strengthened because he did not believe City Council could do as much to strengthen the volunteer aspect of urban forestry management. He also said he would like to see the City purchase more green space throughout city limits.

Colette Hall, the President of the North Downtown Neighborhood Association, spoke about the removal of trees in her area and proposed the possibility of a real estate tax rebate as a financial incentive to plant trees on private property.

“I don’t think there’s a month goes by where I don’t hear the sound of a tree being taken down,” Hall said. “Whatever education we need to do for our citizens, it’s not been done at least in the last 20 years because trees are being taken down at an alarming rate on private property.”

Norris agreed with the idea of a financial incentive and recommended Parks and Recreation look into a program for tree planting that is similar to the rebate programs for low flow toilets and rain barrels.

The Councilors made multiple suggestions for Parks and Recreation’s Urban Management Forestry Plan and stressed the importance of regulations on private property tree removal. Daly listened to all of their advice and Norris told him to keep City Council updated on the progress of the program.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:00 Norris introduces topic
  • 01:10 Daly makes introductory comments
  • 02:15 Gensic presents background information
  • 10:55 Daly lists elements of plan
  • 17:55 Norris admires plan
  • 18:34 Huja asks about identifying trees and trees on private property
  • 20:45 Taliaferro asks where the plan will be emphasized
  • 21:35 Huja stresses importance of education
  • 22:14 Brown asks about encouraging private planting
  • 25:05 Norris comments on increasing requirements
  • 26:50 Huja tells Daly to consider obtaining private donations

April 24, 2009

Dave Norris calls for a “Greener Charlottesville”

20090414-Norris1 By Fania Gordon & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, April 24, 2009

Several days before the official kickoff of Earth Week, Charlottesville Mayor, Dave Norris (D), called for action to make Charlottesville greener both literally (by a “significant expansion of green space”) and figuratively (by promoting environmentally friendly features and practices).  On April 14, 2009, Norris presented his Proposal for a Greener Charlottesville at a press conference in Northeast Park.  Norris has held a series of media events related to his current re-election campaign for City Council.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20090414-Norris-Green

Norris’ proposal includes recommendations to:

  • Increase the City’s tree canopy from 32% to 40% or more through public and private efforts.
  • Encourage construction of green roofs by facilitating their construction through incentive programs, technical assistance and support.
  • Convert “rivers and seas of barren asphalt” into landscaped green streets and green parking lots, and install more pocket parks and community gardens.
  • Purchase and preserve green space and new park land while enhancing existing parks by planting more native species.

At their September 2008 retreat, City Council identified achieving a 40% tree canopy as one of seven major priorities for 2008-2010. Norris expressed frustration about how difficult it has been to actually realize the Council’s tree canopy objectives.  “We’ve been talking about that for at least two years, and I’m frankly a little frustrated we haven’t gotten to the point of taking action on it,” said Norris.  “We need to implement a bold plan of action,” Norris said.

Norris said City Council had not yet received an Urban Forestry Management Plan that was supposed to be completed by January 1, 2009, according to the City’s workplan priorities.  “We’ve been asking for it for many months, and we are told it is coming soon.” 

At the press conference, Norris emphasized that his proposed actions are not in opposition to urban-infill development within the City, explaining that they should be part of a larger infill strategy.  When asked about the possibility of converting the City owned surface parking lot on Water Street into a green space, Norris said he thought it would be more appropriately used for something else.
“That site presents an opportunity for very creative infill development that could include some green space,” said Norris.

Norris also touted the fact the recently adopted City budget included funds for the greening of Charlottesville.  “This is the first year, in many many years, that the city in the FY 2010 budget has included a small amount of money, $100,000 for the purchase and preservation of green space,” said Norris.  “I’d like to see us expand that amount in the years to come.”

While Norris did not specify exactly which paved areas he would like to see converted to green space he suggested ways that existing roads and parking lots could be made greener. These suggestions included increasing parking lot plantings, installing storm-water runoff mitigation features and landscaping streets.  Norris expressed regret about the fact that the City is going to give up so many acres of green space in McIntire Park for the construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway. “I think it’s the wrong direction for us to proceed,” he said.

When asked if the trees to be removed for expansion of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir would be considered in of the City’s calculation of its tree cover, Norris said they would not because they lie outside of the City limits even though the land is technically owned by the City.  However, Norris did say that he felt this question was important as those trees contribute to the overall environmental health of the area and their removal would represent the largest clear-cut on City owned property in a long time.  “We haven’t done a very good job at balancing our talk with our plan of action,” said Norris.  

While 180 acres of trees are proposed to be cleared at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir site, the environmental mitigation plan concept for the 50-year community water supply has as a key element the preservation and enhancement of streams around the Buck Mountain property in Free Union, VA, including the replanting of some 200 acres of riparian corridor.

Norris concluded the press conference saying that the key to successfully greening the City will be community engagement.  “The city can and should be a part of it, but really what it’s going to take is engaging schoolchildren, garden clubs, neighborhood associations, our development partners, the whole community to identify opportunities,” Norris said.