Street Trees Pay Us Back

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Published on: Jun. 30, 2010

over the next 10 to 15 years to fill vacant spots and to have a good urban forestry program to maintain those trees along with existing trees. Trees are now recognized as a critical part of a city’s infrastructure and not just nice extras.

Not all economic benefits are reflected in the i-Tree Streets numbers. Some benefits are just now starting to be valued. For instance, street trees that shade asphalt pavement can save a city up to 60 percent on road maintenance over 30 years, saving taxpayers money. The shade helps cool the pavement, and that slows the evaporation of the oils in asphalt, helping the pavement last longer with less maintenance.

Trees as Life Savers

Other tree benefits just can’t be calculated. For instance, street trees also increase public safety. Drivers will slow their vehicles down by as much as 15 mph because trees make them feel that the street is narrower, even if it’s not, studies show. Trees bring people outside, and that alone helps reduce crime. Making space for trees between a sidewalk and the street also provides a safety zone for children playing on sidewalks and in nearby yards.

Tree-lined streets encourage people to walk or bicycle instead of driving, especially for shorter trips. This can add up to significant savings for gasoline and help reduce air pollution and traffic congestion. As another plus, walking and cycling builds better health and reduces medical costs for individuals and society.

When we do use our cars, most of us try to park in a shady spot on a hot summer day. That reduces air pollution. Shaded parked cars pollute the air less than cars parked in the sun on hot days. All the fluids, including gas and oil, are less likely to evaporate and pollute the air. Some communities in the United States now require developers to provide shade in parking lots.

Help With Street Trees

The Missouri Department of Conservation knows community tree management is important and pays off in the long run, but it takes some funding, expertise and time to get started. The MDC Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance cost-share program provides seed money for cities, schools and other units of government to help start tree management programs. MDC foresters have the expertise to help guide communities as they start caring for their trees and reaping all those benefits. Contact your regional MDC forester for more details (see Page 3).

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