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Wilmington to consider Urban Forestry Master Plan

Kljania / Wikimedia Commons
Redbud trees

The aim of the plan is to protect the urban canopy and street trees from further declines.

Wilmington City Council heard a proposal for an Urban Forestry Master Plan, the first of its kind for the city.

The plan is a year and a half in the making, and evaluates the state of Wilmington’s tree population and plans for its future.

"A city full of trees translates into significant value added," project manager Joe Joyner said. He pointed to a graphic of the value provided by a single 24-inch live oak, which comes out to $52 annually. That number is calculated from a tree's stormwater intake, pollution reduction, and CO2 intake, plus the reduction in energy costs from the shelter it provides.

Notably, Wilmington’s tree canopy coverage has declined since 2016, dropping from 48% percent to 41% percent, according to city staff. The planners also conducted an inventory of street trees in the 1945 corporate limits of Wilmington, and counted more than 10,000 individual living trees in public right of ways.

Joyner also said the city’s balance of tree types is skewed, with Crepe Myrtles overrepresented. Crepe Myrtles are 28% of the city's street trees, while each individual species would ideally make up no more than 10% of that population. Joyner said this could be a problem if they’re impacted by pests or disease.

That statistic drew some questions from council. Neil Anderson defended the crepe myrtle, saying "They tend to do well in storms, and the other parts are Duke Power." The energy company trims trees around its power lines, so lower-lying trees end up being preferable.

Joyner responded that "overhead powerlines are a problem everywhere that they exist along a street, if someone wants to put a tree there. In general, the utility departments have a different goal in pruning their trees than I would if I were pruning a tree, in that they're aiming to protect their lines."

He said some communities work at different levels with utility partners, and can engage in maintenance agreements with the utilities. He suggested there are alternative species that are small maturing native trees that could be considered for future planning, like a fringe tree, or a redbud.

Council will vote on the Urban Forestry Master Plan and its related recommendations at a future meeting in the next month or two, according to the city. That will include further assessments of Wilmington’s trees, developing partnerships, and new regulations. The plan would also focus tree planting and care in locations which advance the city’s equity and sustainability goals.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant on the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.