Planting on private property leads to lush tree canopy, arborist hopes
BY ILANA WILLIAMS
Need more trees in your city? Try planting them on private property.
Before the pandemic, Dawn Taft, the city of Hyattsville’s arborist, worked on planting trees on private property. She is planning to plant more in April.
The city plants trees every year, Taft said. About 50-100 are planted in the right of way every year, while others are planted through other activities like invasive species removal events.
Taft said the city usually reports 200-250 new trees on public land every year, but has also reported a significant loss of trees on private property.
Between 2009 and 2018, the city lost over 236 acres of trees from land development, the emerald ash borer and natural loss of mature tree canopy, according to the Urban Tree Canopy Assessment.
“We were losing so many private trees,” Taft said. “A good part of that is maturity and also this climate.”
According to Taft, there are some trees within the city’s tree canopy that are 75 years old and older.
Taft’s solution to reverse the loss of tree canopy was to offer to plant trees for people. “Hey, if I give you a tree and I planted it for you, are you willing to plant it on your property?” she said.
In 2019, the city was awarded almost $70,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Stormwater Stewardship Grant. The money was not only for planting trees but also for tree education.
Taft suggested planting 43 private trees and 150 trees along city streets. However, the community exceeded her expectations, and she planted over 100 trees on private property.
“When I did that, it exploded,” Taft said. “People were like ‘yeah, give me two, give me three. Call me again, I want more.’”
After Hyattsville received the grant, Casey Trees, a nonprofit based in D.C. that plants trees and educates residents in the D.C. area, partnered with the city to plant the trees on private property.
“One of the most important pieces to the environmental world is trying to find trees that will get to an older age, because that’s when they have the most benefit,” Robert Shaut, director of tree operations at Casey Trees, said.
Planting on private property increases tree canopy, mitigates stormwater runoff and lowers heat and cooling costs, Shaut said.
“They really know their stuff,” Sarah Baobab, a resident in Hyattsville, said. “They were really helpful with the selection to help identify trees that corresponded to what the homeowner might want.”
Baobab signed up to get three trees during Dawn’s initiative. She wanted to fill spots in her yard but also wanted more trees to help the environment.
“Everybody needs to recognize where they can contribute something to combat climate change,” Baobab said. “Trees are an obvious and easy way to do that.”
Casey Trees and Taft are planning another round of 50-60 trees to plant on private property in April.
The city’s tree canopy contains a lot of old trees. For Taft, it’s important to continue planting to keep the tree canopy at a reasonable size.
“We can never replace hundreds of years of tree canopy,” Taft said. “There’s no way to catch up from that, so we need to keep on top of it and replace wherever we can.”