CATHEDRAL CITY – On the night of Mayor Gregory S. Pettis’ inauguration, Dec. 10, 2018, he announced a goal of planting 1000 new, mature, shade trees in the next two years. The City Council has now made that one of its collective goals for 2019 calling it the 1000 Tree Initiative.
Pettis’ announcement was greeted with an audible gasp in the standing-room-only City Council Chambers.
At the City Council’s Study Session on Wednesday, March 13, staff will present the City Council with options and ideas on how to achieve the 1000 Tree Initiative. The presentation will be made for discussion, comments, and direction.
Trees in a city play an important role in increasing urban biodiversity, providing plants and animals with favorable habitat, food and protection, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. In areas of high levels of pollution, trees can improve the air quality, making cities healthier places to live in. Strategic placement of trees in cities can help cool the air between 35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, thus reducing the urban “heat island” effect, and helping urban communities adapt to the effects of climate change.
Large trees are excellent filters for urban pollutants and fine particulates. Trees absorb gasses (such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and sulfur oxides) and filter fine particulates such as dust, dirt or smoke out of the air by trapping them on leaves and bark, according to the organization cited in the staff report. Further, research shows that living in close proximity to urban green spaces and having access to them, can improve physical and mental health, for example by decreasing high blood pressure and stress. This, in turn, contributes to the well-being of urban communities. Planning urban landscapes with trees can increase property values, by up to 20 percent, and attract tourism and business.
Overall, trees provide a significant benefit to individual residents and visitors and enhance the overall environment of the city as a whole.
In an effort to accomplish the 1000 Tree Initiative, staff has identified a number of programs that the city can implement and guide. Many of the programs will rely on resident, business and developer participation, according to the staff report.
Here are a few programs that staff members are looking into to get the 1000 Tree Initiative started:
- On all city Capital Improvement Projects that involve landscaping, city staff and its consultants will place an emphasis on the strategic placement and addition of more trees.
- On all new projects submitted to the Planning Department, an emphasis will be placed on the 1000 Tree Initiative to strategically add trees.
- When city staff identifies a tree needing removal, staff will evaluate the cause of removal, and see if a new tree or different species of tree can be replaced at the location as part of the 1000 Tree Initiative.
- Work with local nurseries to cooperate in a tree discount program that allows residents and/or businesses to buy trees at a discount.
- Work with residents and businesses on tree planting programs.
- Formulate a memorial tree sponsoring program, where individuals sponsor the cost of a tree, with a plaque memorializing the sponsorship as part of the 1000 Tree Initiative.
- Identify grants that will provide for tree purchase, planting and irrigation systems and submit applications for these. Staff will always keep in mind the actual placement, location and benefit of a tree or trees to be planted, making sure that trees are not planted just to plant trees.
The 1000 Tree Initiative could help Cathedral City become a Tree City USA.
In February 2018, the Arbor Day Foundation announced the city of Indio as a Tree City USA for the 11th consecutive year. Currently, Indio, the largest community in the Coachella Valley, is the only Tree City USA in the Valley. Among 482 municipalities in California, 172 are recognized as a Tree City USA Community.
- Planting Trees, 1,000 Tree Initiative: The Tico Times