By Mike Archbold
Tacoma, WA (May 24, 2008)- Trees are beautiful, but can they make areas around schools safer? Bonney Lake officials thought so, and the state Department of Natural Resources agreed, awarding the city $10,000 to help buy street trees for two schools. Gary Leaf, the city’s Community Services director, said studies have shown that trees can have a traffic-calming effect. “If you have trees along a street, it actually slows traffic down,” he said. “It improves safety. There are fewer accidents.”
Pedestrian safety was one of three community needs cited by the city in applying for the Urban and Community Forestry Program grant. The others were reforestation of developed areas and increased tree awareness in the plateau community. Studies say trees help narrow the look of a road, which, in turn, encourages drivers to slow down.
The first planting will involve 75 trees and will be along a 1,640-foot section of the north side of the 192nd Avenue East, directly in front of Bonney Lake High School. The second planting will be of 25 trees along a 630-foot section of South Tapps Drive, directly in front of Emerald Hills Elementary School. The plantings are scheduled for September. Leaf said the city is matching the state grant.
The trees will be at least 5 years old and perhaps 15 feet tall, and they’ll grow to about double that height, said H.D. Messinger, the city’s tree resource specialist. The species include varieties of maple, flowering dogwood and ash. “We’re trying to make an immediate impact,” Messinger said.
Messinger said the city is working with the state Department of Transportation on a landscape design that uses trees for a 1.3-mile widening project through Eastown. The design calls for a wide median dividing the highway. He envisions a boulevard of trees that looks attractive, calms traffic and reduces driver stress.
Educating the community about the importance of trees is another aspect of the city’s tree program. As part of the upcoming school plantings, tree awareness brochures will be distributed on the campuses. Messinger also wants to work with the Sumner School District to establish a junior urban forestry program similar to one operating in Olympia. Improved air quality and reduced storm water runoff are other ways that communities benefit when they take care of their trees, he said.
“Urban forestry is not just for tree-huggers anymore,” Messinger said.
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Washington Urban and Community Forestry
Stay calm: Bonney Lake will get more trees- The News Tribune