The Tacoma Sun


Plant a Tree for Every Tacoman


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

published June 27th, 2008

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Thorax O'Tool // Jun 27, 2008 at 10:00 am

    I think it might actually be a more interesting idea to take the current almost 202k number and multiply it out by our current growth rate to get a practical and reasonable projection for the population in 2018.
    Then plant that many trees.

  • 2 Heather // Jun 29, 2008 at 10:25 am

    If anyone has a suggestion of a good source of information on tree species that do well in urban areas, that includes their rate of growth and size, please share.

    We had to remove a tree from our front yard and we are trying to decide on replacements. As we all strive to plant more trees, we need to be sure that we are planting trees that fit and will thrive.

  • 3 Joanna // Jul 1, 2008 at 7:06 am

    My neighborhood is conspicuously treeless, so yesterday I requested information about Tacoma’s free street tree program. After reading the guidelines for planting street trees, I completely ran out of enthusiasm for this project. If I read the standards correctly (and I’m hoping I didn’t), small trees can’t be planted within 10 feet of a driveway or property line, 5 feet of an underground utility, 20 feet from another tree or 25 feet from a corner. This means that I can plant a total of. . .zero trees along the street. These guidelines also eliminate most of my neighbors. Though I’m still going to plant a few trees on my property, I’m really disappointed that the whole neighborhood won’t be able to benefit from having street trees. Someone please tell me that I read the standards incorrectly. Please!

  • 4 Morgan Alexander // Jul 1, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Heather: The city has an arborist, try googling them.

    Joanna: Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that the tree program is not user friendly. I was surprised that there was a tree program at all. Better marketing and perhaps a revamp in the program is in order. Anyone at city hall reading this?

  • 5 marco // Jul 8, 2008 at 11:36 am

    I am all for going green, but there is a huge problem with the council’s proposal. For starters, their recent decision to close the HOV lane in Tacoma off HWY16. The City even lobbied the state to close it. Why? So now, we are saying don’t carpool or forget about it, since there is no back up today, but we will re-examine tomorrow. Then there is the fact that no council member even carpools or takes mass transit. Ask any of them. Do they own a pass or take the bus to council meetings? If transit is so wonderful, then take it to your council meetings. Lastly, why tell residents not to plant trees on their own property line? This is crazy. If there are no safety, utility lines, why does the city care? Are they going to go around town and pick up ever darn “free growing” tree that roots itself naturally along roadways or property? I doubt it.

    So, before we claim we are committed to going green, try practicing what they preach!!!


  • 6 anon // Jul 23, 2008 at 8:23 am new urban forester…please contact for tree info!

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