News

Is it the 'Year of the Tree' for Cities?

Author: Anna Chott, Sustainability Planner, East-West Gateway Council of Governments

 

Many cities in the St. Louis region are implementing strategies and policies to increase street trees and tree cover, realizing the numerous benefits that trees provide to communities. The benefits of trees include reducing storm water runoff and erosion, shading pedestrians and buildings to lower energy bills, improving air quality, increasing home values, and even lowering the average driving speed.  

The City of Wildwood, MO, has many ongoing projects to increase the number of healthy street trees. First, the city has created a door hanger that instructs residents how to care for street trees. The city is carrying out an ash tree removal project, to replace trees damaged by the emerald ash borer. As of August 1, 2022, the city has removed about 900 ash trees. The city also developed a street tree inventory, which calculated the yearly eco-benefits of the inventoried trees at $228,220.83. Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance (TRIM) grants have provided funding for this work. Finally, the city is also updating its Tree Preservation and Restoration Code, with input from the community. 

Municipalities within the Normandy school district in North St. Louis County (also known as the 24:1 Community) have a variety of ongoing programs to promote tree canopy cover. Residents are able to replace a dead, dying, or hazardous tree on their property with two new trees, through the Treesilience program. They also offer a five week TreeKeepers training course for residents who want to learn more about tree care. The 24:1 Community also published an Urban Tree Canopy Assessment to inform decisions about the planting, maintenance, and removal of trees. The assessment calculated the total annual ecosystem benefits of trees in the community at $1,228,469 (including carbon storage, stormwater management, and air quality).

The City of Collinsville, IL updated its tree ordinance in August of 2022 and is also working on a tree inventory. Updates to the ordinance include promoting native species and prohibiting invasive species and the addition of a Tree Advisory Board. Click here to view the staff report that accompanied the ordinance. 

The Village of Glen Carbon, IL organized a tree giveaway of hundreds of trees to residents and schools in 2022.

Granite City, IL is adding trees to a wetland restoration site and updating their tree ordinance. In addition, they work with Trees Forever to sell carbon credits from the trees they plant. This work has earned the Granite City Cool Cities Committee a Trees Forever Outstanding Volunteer Group Award. 

The Green Cities Challenge highlights even more achievements from cities in the St. Louis region. Additional projects can be found on the St. Louis Green Business Challenge website. While January may not be the best time to plant trees, it is a great time for cities to plan ahead to get more trees planted in 2023! 

Check out onestl.org for a regional database of ordinances related to trees. Also available on that site are documents related to complete streets, form-based code to promote transit-oriented development, and more.