Plan for more trees discussed

By Adam Behsudi
Frederick, MD (April 14, 2009)- Officials moved forward with a plan to increase Frederick ‘s tree canopy to nearly half the city’s total land area. The planning commission approved recommendation of an urban forestry management plan to the Board of Aldermen. The management plan would try to reach a national goal of increasing Frederick’s tree canopy to 40 percent over 20 years or more. The city’s canopy coverage recently was measured at 12 percent. The proposal would also establish a tree commission to resolve tree-specific disputes and violations.

But the ambitious plan drew some doubt from commissioners. “Do you think we’re ever going to hit 40 percent for this city?” asked Alderman Alan Imhoff, a voting member of the commission. “We don’t have a lot of linear park.”
A Maryland Department of Natural Resources study from last year found 12 percent of the city’s 1,592 total acres of public and private land was covered by tree canopy. The proportion fell behind other cities in the region where similar studies were conducted.
Annapolis has a 41 percent tree canopy, Baltimore has a 20 percent of its area covered by tree canopy, and 35 percent of Washington is shaded by trees. The national average for cities is 25 percent canopy cover, according to the draft plan.
City arborist Tom Rippeon said success will be found in working with owners of institutional land where large areas can be readily forested. “We could probably never reach that goal with our own property,” he said.
Imhoff motioned that the plan be recommended for approval at a higher level but with measures of progress every five years. The final percentage goal could decrease depending on the progress determined at those points.
The plan would review and establish forest conservation, landscape, and development regulations to promote the tree canopy goal.
Officials were also worried about the regulatory aspect of a tree commission. “How we look at this from a regulatory process is going to greatly influence how I see this as a master plan,” said commission member Josh Bokee.
The commission would use trained professionals and licensed tree experts to settle disputes and violations, according to the draft plan. “The authority of that commission would be defined at a future date,” commission chairwoman Meta Nash said.
The plan would also establish a dedicated funding source for an urban forestry program, which was estimated costing the city $308,905. Sources of funding could come from compensation for damage to public trees, private donations, utility bill donations, grants and a potential increase to the city’s general fund expenses.
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