Wilmington Adopts New Tree Ordinance to Protect and Sustain Tree Canopy

Wilmington, DE (January 6, 2011)- The City of Wilmington has adopted a new tree ordinance to protect and enhance Wilmington’s tree resources. The new law provides for the planning, policy, management, and enforcement needed to ensure a healthy urban forest. The ordinance, developed by the Baker Administration, local leaders, elected officials, and community partners, was formally adopted by Wilmington City Council.

“Every tree in Wilmington-from our yard trees to our street trees to our forested parkland-provide vital benefits to our air, soil, and water,” said Mayor Baker. “The new tree ordinance will help us to do a better job protecting and managing these trees, which collectively make up our urban forest. The result will be a healthier, more diverse, and sustainable urban forest that will continue to provide Wilmingtonians with countless benefits well into the future.”

Development of the ordinance began two years ago by the Trees for Wilmington (TFW) Coalition-a subgroup of the Wilmington Beautification Commission, which Mayor Baker established in 1999 when he was president of City Council. The TFW Coalition is comprised of local residents, policy-makers, government agency representatives and municipal employees. The group worked with the City’s Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Licenses and Inspections, and Planning Departments as well as Council Members Ignudo and Potter to gather input and gain support for the ordinance.
Mayor Baker and the Council sponsors gave special thanks tonight to the Delaware Center for Horticulture for its leadership role in the coordination of the TFW Coalition and the process of developing the various aspects of the new tree ordinance. “We applaud the passage of this revised ordinance,” said Pam Sapko, Executive Director of the Delaware Center for Horticulture. “It will allow us to be more effective planting trees in the City and taking care of the ones we already have. The new ordinance will also enhance our efforts as we work together towards the TFW goal of planting 20,000 trees by 2020.”
Under the new ordinance, the City’s Public Works Department is now the single point of contact for all tree-related issues (previously these issues were handled by Public Works and the Parks and Recreation Department). Residents may contact the Public Works Call Center at 576-3878 or Mandy Tolino, Wilmington’s Urban Forest Administrator, at 576-2582 with tree-related questions or for tree-related assistance.
Public Works will assume administrative responsibility for street tree permitting because street trees are green infrastructure and a vital component of capital projects (e.g. transportation projects). Public Works will provide recommendations for tree protection during construction, transportation and utility projects that affect public trees. Public Works will work with the City’s Licenses and Inspection Department to enforce city code regarding dangerous, nuisance and encroaching trees on public and private property. The City’s Parks and Recreation Department will continue to manage park trees and will assist Public Works during emergencies as necessary.
The new law establishes a tree commission that will advise the City of tree issues. The tree commission will be comprised largely of members of the TFW Coalition. The commission will handle tree permit appeals; develop an annual report and budget; and prepare and accept grants to financially support the urban forest.
The new law does not change ownership of trees; street trees remain the responsibility of individual property owners. The tree ordinance also includes a comprehensive set of guidelines for proper tree care.
“Trees are vital to the health of all cities,” said Councilmember Ignudo. “Although they add beauty to the landscape of our neighborhoods, trees do much more than that. They are vital to our environment and City because they reduce the heat island effect, help with storm water management, and bolster property values. By consolidating tree responsibility to Public Works and creating the Tree Commission, citizens now have a single point of contact to assist with tree-related issues. Overall, this ordinance will greatly benefit Wilmington by focusing the City to maintain and expand its tree canopy and by simplifying the process for citizens.”
“Trees do more than just beautify our city and freshen our air; they literally freshen our perspective,” said Councilmember Potter. “People enjoy being among trees, which soften harsh urban landscapes. Trees make a community much more livable; therefore, we must do what we reasonably can to safeguard our urban forest.”
Additional Details of the Tree Ordinance
* An ISA-certified arborist will consult with L&I regarding enforcement issues, such as property encroachment, nuisance by pests, dangerous trees, and unpermitted removals. When citations are involved, the L&I Review Board will hear citation appeals.
* An ISA-certified arborist will recommend tree protection plans for private trees during construction projects that might impact the trees. The City requires tree protection plans for construction or other activities that affect public trees in parks, right-of-ways, or other areas owned by the City.
* Permits are required for pruning, removing/replacing, planting, and construction within the drip line of public/street trees.
* An ISA-certified arborist will approve replacement species and locations following all removals to ensure appropriateness. The City is required to plant two trees for every single tree removed on public property.
* The new ordinance authorizes the City to provide financial assistance to homeowners if funds are available. The ordinance also establishes policies for elderly, disabled, and general assistance.
* All permitting, pruning and removal activities must follow ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards.
* Evaluations related to trees that could be considered a hazard must be performed by a certified arborist following protocols established by the U.S. Forest Service to ensure that all trees are evaluated consistently.

Related Resources:

City of Wilmington- Wilmington Adopts New Tree Ordinance to Protect and Sustain Wilmington’s Tree Canopy
Delaware Center for Horticulture
Tree Ordinances & Design Standards