Trees have been a topic of discussion for a while in Gulfport. At the Oct. 17 City Council meeting, they were the topic of a presentation.
The City Council invited Dean Hay to give a tree presentation. Hay is an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist and the Senior Urban Forestry Specialist for the City of St. Petersburg. He has been in the forestry industry for 25 years.
The US Forest Service estimates that 36,000,000 trees are lost from communities each year, according to Hay. This is often caused, Hay said, by over-development and lack of preservation.
Despite this, Hay told Council, the outlook for the future is promising. When cared for properly, trees can last 200-300 years, providing various measurable benefits.
“The annual benefits for a single tree can commonly exceed $1,000,” said Hay.
Urban Forestry Apps
The US Forest Service developed a tool called, “iTree,” which allows a user to determine the benefits of trees over time. The software lets a user input their location, tree species, and tree size; it then provides a detailed list of benefits, and assigns each a dollar value. This includes benefits from carbon dioxide uptake, stormwater mitigation, air pollution removal, and energy usage and emissions. The tool shows annual benefits, as well as benefits as far as 20 years in the future.
Along with this, trees provide benefits such as increasing a property’s value, and shade cover to allow people to spend more time outside.
Discussing Gulfport urban forestry is not all that happened at the Oct. 17 Gulfport City Council meeting. Read vulnerability & watershed management, and things we overheard
Recently, Hay partnered with Gulfport horticulturist Toffer Ross to study Gulfport’s tree canopy. This study found that Gulfport’s tree cover was 23.08%; the average Florida city has a canopy cover of 33.7%.
With this study, Hay and Ross considered development, land use, ordinances, and climate to recommend the City set a goal of 30% canopy coverage. With this goal, Gulfport residents could expect over $400,000 in annual measurable benefits.
Following the presentation, Council discussed the future of trees in the city. Mayor Sam Henderson appeared being particularly excited about the 30% canopy coverage goal.
Council asked Hay which trees should the City should plant, and at what size. Hay discussed his “Right Place Right Tree” guide that he developed for St. Petersburg. It details which trees are best for each situation.
He ended his presentation by talking about a program he is working towards in St. Petersburg, which allows community members to learn about which trees to plant, and where. Hay believes a program like this could help Gulfport reach the 30% coverage goal.
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