Street Trees Pay Us Back

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Published on: Jun. 30, 2010

building and home owners, according to the i-Tree Streets study. Even trees devoid of foliage in winter help slow cold winds and reduce heating costs in cities.

The value of trees varies from one community to another. The 415,000 trees growing on city rights-of-way in Kansas City provide an average benefit of $123 per year per tree, or more than $51 million annually.


The visual appeal that street trees add makes money for a community, too. Trees lining a street increase property values up to 15 percent, a benefit when selling a home. Higher property values, in turn, boost a community’s overall tax base, helping to pay for schools, police and streets.

Businesses benefit because shoppers like trees. Research by Kathleen L. Wolf at the University of Washington has shown that people visiting shopping areas that have trees feel they’re buying products with more value. The same product for the same price may be available elsewhere, but shoppers in areas with street trees come more often, stay longer and feel more positive about their purchases.

Some environmental benefits provided by street trees are growing in importance as climate change concerns increase. The release of carbon into the environment, from power plants for example, has been connected to an increase in greenhouse gases, which are blamed for global warming. Trees absorb carbon and store it. In fact, carbon storage is starting to have an economic value that can be bought and sold for rural forest trees. There is not yet a carbon market for urban forest trees, but it is being discussed. Kansas City’s street trees annually store carbon worth about $1.9 million.

Trees are also standing air filters that work around the clock. Studies estimate that Kansas City’s street trees provide more than $2.3 million per year in air quality benefits.

The foliage on trees also helps reduce stormwater runoff and flash flooding. Rain that falls on trees drips off leaves or runs down the trunk into soil before becoming runoff. Rain that falls onto parking lots speeds straight into storm sewers.

In Kansas City, street trees intercept almost 606 million gallons of stormwater annually, saving $16.4 million each year in costs associated with building and maintaining public stormwater systems. That’s one reason why the city is including street trees in its “Green Solutions” plan to address stormwater, as well as in its climate protection plan.

The plan calls for planting more than 120,000 street trees

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