Neighborwoods growing in popularity

By Ralph Bartholdt
Sandpoint, ID (April 23, 2010)- Gail Lyster knows by looking. When the local artist and member of the city’s tree committee takes a detour through a city neighborhood, she notices immediately whether they are part of the urban forestry’s tree planting program. The trees are neatly staked, pruned, and ornate. More often these days, a program called NeighborWoods, is at the heart of the new plantings.


It warms Lyster to be part of the effort. “It makes you feel so good to see all those trees that are going to be building into our healthy urban forest, ” Lyster said.
The city’s forestry program is giving away trees to residents willing to nurture them. The city plants the trees in rights of way along sidewalks, in exchange for having neighboring residents water them. But residents must call the city within the week to take advantage of the give away.
Urban forests are nothing new. Sandpoint has had city trees since its inception, and they grew unimpeded in city rights of way without much thought by administrators until the trees caused a problem. In the past decade, however, city trees have become part of the local conscience. Their benefits and aesthetics are highlights of an urban forest where management and tree health is stressed.
In Sandpoint, unhealthy trees are being removed as new trees are planted in public places. Matching species to space is part of the urban forest plan. “The majority of our trees are mature trees, and most of the trees we have in the right of way are Norway maples,” said city tree committee member Rich Del Carlo, an arborist who owns Peregrine Tree and Landscape. “A lot of them have been improperly cared for or maintained, and there is a lot of rot and decay in them.”
The trees often grow into power lines and must be drastically trimmed. Overpruning and drastic limb removal can invite fungal and bug attacks and open the trunk to sun scald. That means dead wood, which could become hazardous, eventually causing tree death.
The city has trees marked for pruning or removal, and replenishes its rights of way with free trees for residents who are willing to care for the trees until they are big enough to survive on their own. “We are in the process of trying to reestablish and keep the urban forest going,” Del Carlo said.
The Neighborwoods program began two years ago with the goal of increasing the city’s tree canopy, Stephen Drinkard, Sandpoint’s urban forester, said. Increasing the canopy reduces stormwater, makes asphalt last longer and provides quiet, softly-lighted places for residents. The program is modeled after a similar program in Olympia, Wash., Drinkard said. “The goal of the program is to plant the right tree in the right place with the help of right person,” Drinkard said. “That, in a nutshell, spells out our program.”
Working with a local nursery, the city has planted 250 trees via the program, matching the trees to the places where they are planted. Small, medium and large trees including pear trees, honey locust and lilac trees for smaller areas under power lines, oaks and lindens for open paces.
Anyone interested in having trees planted at no cost along the sidewalk by their home can get an application at City Hall. Applications should be turned in by April 28. People chose for the trees must attend a short course May 1 that shows how to care for their specific tree.
“When people come to the workshop, they pick up their trees and the following week we plant them,” he said. The trees are planted, staked and add the kind of pleasing, newness to a neighborhood that feels good. “It’s beautiful.” Lyster said. “Seeing all those new trees.”
Related Resources:
Neighborwoods growing in popularity
National NeighborWoods Month