A solid first step

At Louisville Grows, we know that trees build communities. After planting nearly 1,500 trees in neighborhoods in recent years through our Love Louisville Trees program, we see the connection that grows over the fresh-turned soil of a newly-planted tree and under the canopy of long-standing specimens. For every tree we plant, however, about 80 are lost. This is where the work of protecting existing trees is helped by the public-tree ordinance proposed by Council members Bill Hollander and Cheri Bryant Hamilton.

The ordinance would be a solid start to sustain Louisville Metro’s tree canopy. It would ensure public trees, not private ones, are replaced after a tree is removed from city-owned land and public rights of way. While this ordinance would be a solid foundation for fundamental tree legislation, more work is needed to rebuild the city’s tree canopy, including holding commercial developers responsible for protecting and replacing trees, accreditation and training for contractors performing tree work for utilities and educational initiatives to help businesses and residents understand the importance of trees. Educating the community is crucial to gathering support for this ordinance. While canvasing neighborhoods with the lowest tree canopies, we hear why residents are not big fans of trees: Trees are expensive, messy and potentially dangerous.

Part of Louisville Grows’ mission is ensuring that people understand why trees are important: Trees improve air quality and reduce asthma, cool homes and cut utility bills, increase property values and promote safer, stronger communities.

We believe this ordinance would allow greater transparency and education about how we all can work together for a healthy tree canopy. Louisville Grows welcomes this vision.

It is a fact that commercial development is destroying trees at an alarming rate. Attempts to hold commercial developers responsible and make changes to the Land Development Code have been strongly opposed by Greater Louisville Inc. GLI’s opposition to sustainable, green initiatives is shortsighted. Development without consideration of personal and environmental well-being affects our health. We hope GLI understands that equivalent changes in the Code are essential.

Overhead utilities are also destroying our tree canopy. Any one walking under the lush shade of tall trees can see how utility line contractors butcher trees. Thiss weakens trees and makes them susceptible to storms. Education in proper pruning and arboriculture practices should be required of such contractors. Proper tree selection, to ensure shorter, stouter trees are placed under lines, is also needed.

Wendell Berry, poet and arbiter of Kentucky’s rich natural heritage, recently granted use of his poem, “A Vision,” to Louisville Grows. It begins, “If we will have the wisdom to survive, to stand like slow-growing trees on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it…” His eloquent words remind me of the gratitude we feel for these visionary council members who, despite opposition, are champions for trees. Together, as a city, we will build a just, sustainable community. Louisville Grows proudly supports the well-being of all our citizens through expanded initiatives to sustain our tree canopy. •

The  nonprofit Louisville Grows supports urban agriculture, forestry and environmental education. louisvillegrows.org