reLeaf-ing Seattle

The City of Seattle’s Trees for Neighborhoods program is up and running, taking applications from residents for up to 4 free trees to keep the city green. Many tree species even have wait-lists! As a public partnership with the community, Green Cities wants to highlight four majestic trees that are still available….for now! If you have room for these larger trees in your yard, they will bring that much more value to our urban forest for years to come.

Frontier Elm

– Frontier Elm –
The Frontier Elm is a unique cultivar of Chinese and European elms. While most elms turn yellow in autumn,  ‘Frontier’ is a trail blazer with striking burgundy-red foliage. An exciting addition to your backyard!

– Japanese Cedar –
Despite its name the Japanese cedar isn’t really a cedar, instead this bluish needled tree is a member of the Cypress family. An evergreen with true year-round interest!

A young Western Red Cedar

 – Western Red Cedar –
Lewis and Clark thought that Western red cedars were amazing enough to be called the “trees of life” -arbor vitae. Plant one in your backyard and bring life to your neighborhood!

– Fernleaf Beech –
The Romans believed carrying around a piece of beech wood could bring good luck. Let the Fernleaf beech bring good fortune to your yard with its whimsically shaped leaves, and help to increase your neighborhoods tree cover!

You can get your own through Seattle reLeaf’s Trees for Neighborhoods program!


The Trouble with Storms

There are a ton of benefits that trees provide for our cities, neighborhoods, and homes that we can take for granted. Last week we mentioned that a large percentage of the monetary value provided by trees is by mitigating stormwater.

In the Gulf coast, the damage from both the drought and flooding are disrupting city and rural life as Ivan (now a Tropical Storm) passes. Although here in Washington State we don’t encounter hurricanes, all urban folk rely on cities to take care of water flowing through our soil and over our roads. Cities provided the infrastructure to collect, distribute, and treat stormwater and sewage at once, meaning that the pipes and tunnels can get overwhelmed when storms occur.

Here in King County, the Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) is concerned about overflows that can occur when the system’s capacity is overwhelmed by stormwater. This causes environmental and health problems when overflows contain more than just stormwater, but also some sewage. The WTD’s project for Bioretention is one way the county takes advantage of the natural absorptive power of vegetation.

From the Arbor Day Foundation’s publication “Tree City USA” Bulletin 55

Trees are great at managing stormwater runoff from the leaves disrupting rainfall, to the roots system’s

storage of rainwater. According  to the Alliance for Community Trees, mature trees can hold 50 to 100 gallons of water during large storms. Strategic tree planting can relieve pressure off of more traditional infrastructure – Detroit reduced overflow in 2010 by 10-20% in volume, saving about 159 million dollars a year. Trees are an effective, environmentally-friendly solution to an expensive problem.

Free Trees for your Restoration Site!

Forterra’s exciting new C3 program (Carbon Capturing Companies), spearheaded by Pearl Jam, is working to engage local businesses about their carbon footprint.  In addition, this is creating an amazing opportunity for community-lead tree planting for carbon sequestration.

ImageA bunch of great local companies from the Seattle Sounders and Seahawks to Cherry St. Coffee and Molly Moon’s Ice Cream have committed to reducing their carbon usage and sequestering carbon through tree planting. These efforts will be completed on urban parks in the communities where the businesses work and their customers live and play.

Submission period has been extended through September 10th!

Forterra is looking for homes for these companies’ carbon. This means free trees!  Native conifers will be available in the late fall to all who apply and agree to maintain and monitor the trees through their establishment. Application and more information available on the Forterra webpage.

For questions, email me:

The Value of Urban Trees

Green Seattle event in Interlaken

Tree enthusiasts (hello!) know that urban trees are crucial for our communities – we feel it in our bones – but, how can we quantify this for our less enthusiastic neighbors?

A recent article in The Atlantic discusses “The Case for More Urban Trees” with a variety of new evidence for tree benefits. Programs in both the other Washington (D.C.) and San Diego County have cropped up, profiling the urban canopy. Interactive maps then allow users to view a summary of the benefits trees have for our community from carbon sequestration to water retention, energy conservation, and air pollution reduction. These tools put real numbers to the abstract benefits that city dwellers feel everyday.

In fact, these tools are not limited to specific counties in the country. The Casey Tree Foundation developed a Tree Benefit Calculator, where you can enter your location and tree species to discover the monetary benefit to your neighborhood or city. Intrigued, I looked up the benefits of the London Planetree right outside the Forterra office in downtown Seattle. At about 20 inches in diameter, our tree has $101 worth of benefits to the area mostly from the property value and stormwater mitigation. Trees have an extremely important and now more tangible value for our cities.

Photo by Andrea Carey

Even more incredibly, Seattle understands these benefits especially for city infrastructure like stormwater maintenance. The reLeaf program offers four FREE trees to city residents to keep the Emerald City green. Puns aside, city government is responding to the financial value of urban greenery that arborist  research can pinpoint. Here at Green City Partnerships, we fully support this symbiotic relationship.

What other programs support urban trees?

Tour Des…Trees?

Photo credit to Alvin Gilens

Last week, more than 100 cyclists finished a 585-mile course along the Pacific Coast to raise money for urban forestry research, marking the 20th Anniversary. The ride also stops for tree plantings and other community engagement programs – maybe next year we can send a Green Cities cyclist to join them! The Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund has raised over $5.5 million since 1992 and funds go towards research on the benefits of trees to communities and economies, as well as ways to preserve and improve urban tree health.

“The STIHL Tour des Trees is an engine for innovation in the arboriculture industry,” said TREE Fund president and CEO Janet Bornancin.

We look forward to continually learning more about the great service trees bring to our cities! Know of another cool fundraiser to benefit trees? Let us know!

Where to Place Parks

Forsyth Park sits along the spine of the Historic District, uniting pedestrian over car traffic. Credit to Kevin Klinkenberg

What makes a park work? Baltimore answered this question earlier this year with, “location, location, location”. City Planner Kevin Klinkenberg agrees. In his latest post on the benefits of walkable cities, Klinkenberg says what makes Forsyth Park great is how central it is (physically) to community life in the Savannah’s Historic District. Forsyth Park dominates the spine of the district for many blocks, squarely inserting green space into city living. It diverts traffic and allows pedestrians and cyclists a logical place to enjoy and congregate. Instead of making parks the land use of last resort, cities must to actively pursue locations for the best parks.

This is how purposeful city planning can develop urban forestry, and local communities! We are so excited here at Green Cities to have committed partners that bring the private and public stakeholders together to protect and restore urban green spaces just around your corner. And we’ll keep you in the loop as the benefits of urban parks are discovered around the nation!