City to Plant 382 New Trees

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City to Plant 382 New Trees

Posted: 01/14/2010
It's the heart of winter but the City of Knoxville's Public Service Department is in the middle of an annual effort designed to make the city greener, not only this spring but for years to come.

The department is in the process of planting 382 new trees on city-owned property mostly along boulevards and major streets in addition to the entrances to several neighborhoods and in some city parks. The plantings begin in December and continue through this month. 
"It's something that people often take for granted but urban street trees are an important element of a city's attractiveness and its environment both in its neighborhoods and in the downtown area," said David Brace, the city's deputy director of public service. "Healthy trees reduce air and noise pollution, provide shade along the streets, they help improve water quality and, in particular, they enhance the beauty of our historic neighborhoods and increase property values." 
Knoxville has been named as a Tree City USA Community by the Arbor Day Foundation for 18 consecutive years. 
"Trees really contribute to the beauty of Knoxville, especially downtown and maintaining the urban canopy we have and expanding it is an important goal of the city," Brace added. "Compared to other items in our budget our planting fund is not very large, (usually about $40,000) but the return we get on this investment over the long term can't be measured in dollars." 
The city typically plants about 315 trees a year but is planting additional trees this season thanks to an $18,000 Tennessee Agriculture Enhancement Program Grant to maintain and - in some areas - re-establish large, mature canopy trees.

The receipt of the grant comes at an opportune time. In its application the city pointed out that in 2007 and 2008, drought-like conditions and severe storms have damaged and/or destroyed several trees in the City. The areas focused on within this grant will give the City of Knoxville and these highly-traveled areas the canopy and tree infrastructure they deserve. 
"The grant is designed for large trees," said Chad Weth, planning coordinator for the service department. "For instance, going up Broadway into Halls is an area that was hit hard by the drought that we experienced before this past year. So we used part of that grant to replace 24 trees along the Broadway median." 
The grant is also providing for the installation of new trees - oaks and maples - that will grace Island Home Boulevard, Sevier Avenue, James White Parkway, Magnolia Avenue near Asheville Highway and in Lakeshore Park and the new Downtown Dog Park among other locations.

Hancock Horticultural Services, Inc. supplies, plants and initially mulches the new trees and the city's Horticulture Division maintains them from that point. All the trees are guaranteed for at least one year and some for up to three years.

Overall the city is planting a wide variety of trees ranging from redbud, dogwood, crepe myrtle and holly trees to various types of maples, oaks, magnolias and even a single hemlock tree. Decisions on where to plant are determined by the city's Arborist Jeff McCarter based on soil conditions, existing utilities and in conjunction with neighborhood requests.

In some cases the city will work with a neighborhood association that has an ongoing tree planting project. 
"We try and address areas that are most visible but when neighborhoods request trees we'll try and use part of the tree budget to address those requests too," Weth said.

Knoxville has an advantage over many other metropolitan areas for the cultivation of trees because of its long temperate climate and long growing season. But there are some problems too.

The 2007-2008 greatly increased the mortality rates of older trees and there are concerns in the downtown area where a lot of trees were planted around the time of the 1982 World's Fair and are reaching the end of their lifespan. Some trees, particularly in or around Market Square, are also feeling the effects of an increasingly popular downtown. 
"They can't withstand the foot traffic during large events and the resulting soil compaction," Weth said.

The efforts of the Legacy Tree Fund, an initiative created by the Legacy Parks Foundation with the support of Carol R. Johnson and Associates, helped there by planting 25 new trees downtown last year.

Brace said the public service department would like to replace many of the trees in downtown over a ten year period with varieties that are better able to cope with urban conditions. 
"We want to continue to green our city but to do so we have to maintain a healthy tree population, expand our canopy, and professionally manage our forest resources," Brace said.