Salisbury keeps up with its trees

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 21, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — This city loves its trees.
Identified as a “Tree City USA” for the past 26 years, Salisbury now has detailed information about 2,759 trees in the heart of the city.
Using a state grant, the city recently completed a tree inventory in Planning District 3, which includes downtown and nearly all of the city’s historic districts.
Led by the city’s GIS Division with help from Landscape Operations, Tree Board, and Community Planning Services, the inventory revealed that 98 percent of trees owned or maintained by the city within the district are healthy.
“This is a true testament to city staff working to maintain this natural resource as an asset for our community,” GIS Coordinator Kathryn Clifton told City Council Tuesday.
The comprehensive inventory includes a map showing the location of every tree, along with a photograph.
An extensive database details each tree’s height, diameter, genus and species, condition, location, type of growth space and any impediments to growth. If overhead utility lines are a concern, or if the tree has damaged sidewalks or curbs, it’s been noted.
In the planning district, the city maintains 533 evergreens and 2,226 deciduous trees. Some 70 percent of trees inventoried are from the same 10 species.
“We may want to improve the diversity of species we have on our streets and consider more native species, simply because they would be better acclimated to the area and require less maintenance by city staff,” Clifton said.
The inventory will help the city better manage existing trees to ensure a healthy urban forest, she said. The city can use the study to determine what kinds of trees to plant in which parts of town.
Trees can reduce storm water runoff, flooding, erosion, greenhouse gases and help improve water quality, Clifton said. They also make the city more beautiful, boost property values, provide habitat for animals and shade.
The city has created a how-to guide for other communities. Written instructions and video tutorials explain how Salisbury went about the process of counting, photographing and logging information about more than 2,700 trees.
Salisbury also may host workshops about creating a tree inventory, which would generate revenue, Clifton said.
City Council thanked everyone involved in the lengthy process, especially Tree Board Chairman Rodney Queen and former Chairman Jack Burke.
“Trees means a great deal to us, and many people don’t realize that,” said Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy, who serves on the Tree Board.