Tacoma is losing its trees. After a quick glance at the skyline you might not believe it, but it’s true. Recent winds and storms have taken many trees; others have fallen to development; and plenty have been removed from our parks and sidewalks because of their age.
There is no systematic effort in Tacoma to replace those lost trees and there is certainly no city-wide effort to increase the number of trees in Tacoma. This is unfortunate because trees can bring so much good.
Well-located trees can help keep the streets and sidewalks cooler. They shade our homes and result in lower energy bills. They keep the air cleaner and they soak up and filter water before it runs into our storm drains. They beautify neighborhoods, increase property values, and help pull carbon from the atmosphere.
There are, of course, heavily forested areas of our city. But our sidewalks, our urban and suburban parks, our backyards, our colleges and schools, all benefit from adding more trees.
The Green Ribbon Task Force met on Wednesday, June 25 and proposed an audacious goal for making Tacoma—quite literally—more green. The draft recommendations include at a city-wide effort to plant 20,000 trees in the next biennium. This recommendation (along with about 80 others) will go before the City Council at Tuesday’s Study Session for consideration. I would encourage everyone involved to not only implement this recommendation (along with the others) but here’s a goal I’d like to recommend. Let’s make this the target: plant a tree for every man, woman, and child in Tacoma.
Now that has a ring to it. Recent estimates put Tacoma at 201,700 residents so we’ll make that our 10-year goal. 201,700 trees by 2018. But if the Tacoma population increases in that time (as it almost assuredly will) so will our goal. There will always be more trees to plant, one for each new soul added to our city.
I recognize that in so many ways governments work to avoid goals and targets that forever remain just out of reach. But in this case, that might be just the point. Tacoma is going to continue losing trees and we need a reason to keep re-planting them.
The New York City model of tree planting brings together individuals, municipal governments and agencies, non-profits and schools to complete the task. Our community can do the same. If we set out to plant a tree for every person in Tacoma, our city is going to be a richer, more beautiful, energy-efficient place.
Erik Hanberg lives and works in downtown Tacoma. He blogs regularly at erikemery.com.