Earth Day: Tree wishes, what city experts want for our trees

We asked Louisville’s tree experts to make tree wishes — three apiece — for our city’s urban forest:

Paul E. Cappiello, executive director Yew Dell Botanical Gardens:
Even more than planting tons of trees, my wish is that we all do a better job of taking care of the trees we have — regular watering, proper pruning and elimination of the dreaded volcano mulching that Louisvillians seem to love.

Highlight trees in school curricula — childhood tree lovers turn into adult tree lovers… and adult tree lovers pass and support tree-friendly policies.

Diversify our urban forest — the best hedge against the next emerald ash borer, Dutch elm disease and… quite frankly… global climate change, is a tree canopy that represents the greatest possible genetic diversity. More species equals a healthier tree resource.

Michael Hayman, arborist for the city of Seneca Gardens, landscape director at Whitehall House and Gardens, and senior advisor for TreesLouisville:
Trees are treated as infrastructure equal to electricity, water and sewers. Trees cool our heat island, slow storm runoff, remove pollutants from the air, and improve our quality of life.

Trees are planned and planted for the long term, 50-100 years.

When we plant trees, simple design concepts such as texture, color, contrast and light direction are considered.

Cindi Sullivan, executive director of TreesLouisville:
I wish that everyone in our community would protect and care for their existing trees by learning more about them. For instance, if we properly prune our large trees as they grow, they are better able to withstand severe weather conditions, disease and insect problems.

I wish that we would celebrate every occasion by planting a new tree, instead of wrapping presents in boxes, or if we can’t plant our own tree, we would give to an organization that can.

I wish that every child in our community could experience the exhilaration and sense of accomplishment that I so clearly remember when I was a child climbing trees.

Natalie Reteneller, director of Urban Forestry for Louisville Grows, heads Love Louisville Trees and helps manage several community orchards:
That trees, in tandem with young people, will have the natural and emotional resources and support to thrive for the duration of their full life span.

That our collective imagination will create innovative approaches to link the needs of our natural, built environment with community economic development opportunities to end the cycle of poverty.

Because of a fundamental culture shift that includes an affirming view of trees by all people, our community is healthy, safe and filled with joy!

John A. Swintosky, landscape architect with Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation Department:
Trees are the major and longest-lived component of the living landscape, coming before us and (hopefully) outliving us. As such, they should be treated with high respect.

Tree plantings should always be projects unto themselves, after major construction activities have been completed and closed out. Then, planting plans and prior site conditions can be revisited to acknowledge the changed site and appropriate site preparation, plant selection, and installation in the proper season can be accomplished.

Trees should not only be considered as infrastructure — they must be valued as such or they will always be considered disposable by those institutions that have never thought of them otherwise. Much as air and water came to be recognized as resources that were not unlimited, so must our arboreal inheritance be recognized as finite — but renewable and perpetual if we apply sensible and thoughtful actions in their management.