A new Charlotte effort to rebuild the city’s dwindling tree canopy plans five tree-planting events in coming months, starting Nov. 4.
TreesCharlotte, a nonprofit collaborative effort, aims to expand the tree canopy in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in coming years, after studies project a diminishing number of trees unless today’s trends reverse.
Although many Charlotte-area residents consider trees a beloved amenity, the city is losing many of its trees as undeveloped land sprouts houses, offices and stores and older trees die from old age, disease as well as road, street and water/sewer projects. An American Forests analysis found that between 1985 and 2008, Mecklenburg County lost 33 percent of its tree canopy and 3 percent of its open space. For Charlotte the figures were even worse: Between 1985 and 2008, the city lost 49 percent of its canopy and 5 percent of its open space.
Just between 2002 and 2008, Mecklenburg County lost 9,475 acres of trees, or about 3 percent of its canopy. (Read the Urban Ecosystem Analysis by clicking here.) As of 2008 about 50 percent of the county’s land had tree coverage; only 46 percent of the city’s land did. Projections show the county’s canopy would decline to about 47 percent and the city’s to about 44 percent by 2015, with no interventions.
Enter Charlotte City Council, which in 2011 adopted a goal to restore the city’s tree canopy to 50 percent by 2050. And enter TreesCharlotte.org, which grew from discussions among government staff, philanthropic and business leaders and other civic interests. The initiative has hired Dave Cable, former director of the Catawba Lands Conservancy, and it’s now housed at Foundation For The Carolinas.
An analysis found that to meet the city’s goal will mean planting 25,000 trees a year over 20 years, or about 15,000 a year more than the current pace. So TreesCharlotte is rallying volunteer efforts and public-private partnerships. Two tree-planting events are set for coming months:
Nov. 4 at the Peachtree Hills subdivision, the group will plant 100 trees. Peachtree Hills was built about 10 years ago on 28 acres that were all but clear-cut. (Click here for an article and video about a March tree-planting effort there.)
Dec. 1 at Southside Homes on South Tryon Street, volunteer students from Queens University of Charlotte and volunteers from Crescent Resources, which sponsoring the event with a $10,000 donation, will plant 238 trees at the Charlotte Housing Authority site. City workers will plant about 185 street trees nearby at about the same time. The city and TreesCharlotte are helping with funding, and Catawba Lands Conservancy will manage and run the event.*
Other events are planned for January, February and March, but details haven’t been nailed down. Interested volunteers should email Dave Cable at email@example.com.
Cable said TreesCharlotte’s mission does not focus on government policy such as the city’s tree ordinance or other development ordinances, or on the state billboard law that lets billboard companies cut trees in front of billboards.
Co-chairs of the TreesCharlotte Foundation’s founding board are Marcia Simon and Johnny Harris. Among the group’s contributions to date are $30,000 from Carolinas HealthCare System, $20,000 each from Foundation For The Carolinas and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and $10,000 each from Crescent Resources and the Harris Foundation (Johnny and Deborah Harris).
(* Updated Oct. 12 to reflect more details about the Nov. 1 event.)
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