Newspapers carry stories about "sudden oak death" in California, Oregon and now Washington; Asian long-horned beetle infestations led to the removal of several thousand maples in New York and Chicago; mountain pine beetles are attacking Ponderosas in Colorado. Spokane is suffering loss of native Ponderosa to irresponsible "scorched earth" development practices and urban logging. In Spokane today, the first step toward urban sprawl is often clear-cut logging, primarily of Ponderosa pines. Since Spokane's Ice Storm a decade ago, residential neighborhoods have become the focus for unregulated urban logging resulting in the extraction of hundreds more Ponderosa pines.
The good news is these native trees are very hardy, can live more than 200 years even in urban environments, and require little irrigation. Most of the other large canopy trees in the city were planted about 70 years ago, creating beautiful tree-lined streets and wonderful parks. The bad news is we seem to take these magnificent trees for granted; we are not funding their maintenance. One reason might be that they've always been part of our daily lives. Trees are very slow-growing plants and can live longer than many people. One giant sequoia in the mountains of California is 2,500 years old.
Analysis by the city of a small sample (7,284) of Spokane's 27,000 park trees revealed their total value as more than $46 million. Thirty-five percent of the park trees are Ponderosa pine and 10 percent are Norway maple. About 68 percent of these trees are mature (7 inches to 24 inches in diameter) and will need to be removed as they begin to age over the next few decades.
The slogan "Near Nature, Near Perfect" declares broadly that Spokane recognizes the importance of natural spaces in a city. As someone once said, "A city without trees is just another concrete jungle." Early this year, results of the "Efficiency and Effectiveness Study of Spokane" by the Matrix Consulting Group were released and posted to the city's Website. The consultants suggested that the Park Board, by deprioritizing the needs of the city's sole tree trimmer or arborist, has not done nearly enough to support Spokane's Urban Forestry Program. Many of us are concerned that the Urban Forestry Program might be lost altogether.
Councilmember Bob Apple, the City Council's liaison to the Park Board, is working with the Park Board to evaluate and prioritize the Matrix Report's recommendations for the Park Department.
& lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ast year, citizens voiced their concerns about losing street trees along South Bernard Street. More trees were planted near the improved section of Bernard than were removed as the result of road construction. City Councilmember Mary Verner convened an Urban Forest ad hoc committee of city staff (many of whom had not met before) to discuss aspects of their work that might impact public trees. As a result, several changes were made to the 2007-08 process for evaluating trees impacted by Street Improvement Bond projects. When 12 mature Ponderosas along Cliff Drive were slated for removal, citizens called City Hall to register their opposition. As the result of citizens raising their voices, only two of the 100-year-old trees were felled.
The Spokane Park Board meets the second Thursday of each month at 1:30 p.m. in the Spokane City Council chambers.
Visit www.americanforests.com, www.treemusketeers.org
and www.arborday.org, or call 625-6255 and 625-6297.