Follow the LFUCG Urban Forestry Management Plan, protecting and recovering Lexington’s urban forest by strategically planting new trees and creating walkable streetscapes.
The urban forest plays an important role in supporting and improving the quality of life in urban areas. A tree’s shade and beauty contributes to the community’s health and softens the often hard appearance of urban landscapes and streetscapes. When properly maintained, trees provide abundant environmental, economic, and social benefits to a community, far in excess of the time and money invested in their planting, pruning, protection, and removal.
Lexington’s Urban Forestry Management Plan has a statement of, “achieving a sustainable urban forest in Lexington.” This mission encompasses the broad issues concerning the health and vitality of urban forests. A canopy made up of trees that are native, hardy, diverse, and compatible with conditions and climate, properly planted and maintained and protected, makes for a healthy, long-lived, and thus sustainable urban forest, with all of its benefits. For example, studies suggest that tree-lined streets are safer, with reduced traffic speeds and reduced driver stress (from 2013 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Planting Plan, by Davey Resource Group). Trees have also been proven to increase residential property values 3-7% when present in the yard, and 9% when adjacent as street trees. Additionally, consumers have been found to spend more time and have a more favorable view of businesses when the business district has a vibrant landscaping plan with many trees.
Lexington’s zoning ordinance has established standards for Commercial Landscaping (Article 18) and Tree Protection (Article 26). These ordinances set minimum tree canopy coverage standards for commercial and residential zones. Steps to review and update these ordinances are part of the Urban Forestry Management Plan, and are reinforced in Imagine Lexington.
In Lexington, 16% of all land is publicly owned, and 84% is privately owned, according to the 2013 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment. In order to “achieve a sustainable urban forest in Lexington”, it is therefore important to engage both the public and the private sectors in the stewardship of the urban forest. This requires mechanisms for educating and encouraging private sector engagement in urban forestry. Updating tree inventory on a continuous basis, and supplementing with a comprehensive urban tree canopy assessment every 10 years, along with tracking all completed action items, will provide opportunity for evaluation and adjustments.
Tree protection is required in the development process. Contacting the urban forester is required by the ordinances and the procedures manual. The benefits associated with the conservation of trees, tree stands, and greenspaces as a part of new development planning is well documented. According to the 2016 Greenspace Survey, 92% of respondents feel developers should be responsible for greenspace creation as basic infrastructure, while 78% feel that there should be additional protection for trees of significant species, size and condition.
LFUCG currently has initiatives to increase public participation in care and planting of trees on public property through Reforest the Bluegrass. Grassroots non-profit organization Trees Lexington! has also gained tremendous momentum in the community, and has been advocating for increased urban tree canopy. Lexington has established a well-stocked plant nursery at Hisle Park, where trees, shrubs, and other plants will be grown and propagated for installation on public properties, including parks, greenways, and facilities. It is time to move trees forward on the budget list.
- Implement recommendations from the Urban Forestry Management Plan.