By Catherine Wachs
I recently went back to visit my old Queens neighborhood. I had fond memories of walking to school through a tunnel of maple-lined streets. But the place was hardly recognizable. No trees had been planted to replace the old, majestic giants, now gone. The street looked naked and harsh. I see the same thing happening to our neighborhood. Like Queens, Larchmont and Mamaroneck's development soared in the 1920?s. Most of the tree stock planted by the original developers is, if not already dead, at life's end. You need only to look at the picture above to see what a difference street trees make.
Aesthetic isn't the only reason to plant street trees but it's a good one. The National Association of Realtors estimates that property values are 7% to 25 % higher for houses surrounded by trees. A U.S. Forest Service study likewise concludes that street trees increase home values by an average of $7,000.
Trees also save you money year round by reducing cooling and heating costs. And they get bonus points for decreasing noise pollution, improving air quality and reducing flooding.
Trees For Our Town. And Villages.
For all these reasons, Larchmont Village, Mamaroneck Town and the Village of Mamaroneck participate in Tree City, USA. Run by the National Arbor Foundation, members are required to spend at least $2 per capita on a Community Forest Program. Tree donations help support the program.
"We encourage people to donate a tree for happy occasions as well as memorials. If a tree is planted for a new baby, that child can see "their" tree grow. Even friends can donate together, the tree flourishing with their friendship", says Jan Feinman, Chair of the Village of Larchmont Parks and Trees Committee.
Liz Paul, Environmental Coordinator for Mamaroneck Town says, "People plant trees for many reasons. It gives them a good feeling… starting a new life". Some stories are poignant. "The 'Remembrance Tree' at the corner of Palmer and Weaver, was donated by families who have lost children. It's often decorated," recounts Ms. Paul. "On the corner Murray and Forest, Mickey the dog would sit and happily greet kids on their way to school. Mickey died but an honorary tree marks in his favorite spot."
Need More Reasons to Plant Trees? Cool!
A whole street lined with trees can be more than 15 degrees cooler than a street without trees. Properly placed, trees reduce air conditioning needs by 30 to 50%. According to the US Dept. Of Agriculture, "The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day."
In winter, trees act as windbreaks, saving 20–50% in heating. Some homeowners worry about trees in severe windstorms but numerous trees protect each other–and nearby homes–by reducing wind speed. Of course, any tree that looks unhealthy and is too close to your home should be evaluated for removal. If you do remove a tree, plant a replacement.
Asthma Hates Trees.
Trees are air-cleaning machines. The USDA Forest service estimates that in Washington DC, their trees removed 878,000 pounds of pollutants, putting the value DC's urban forest at $2.1 million for air quality alone. "One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people." —U.S. Department of Agriculture
Urban Forest vs. Noah's Ark.
Our community is the last stop before storm water reaches the Sound. As a result of being downhill we get our unfair share of flooding. A mature tree drinks 150-250 gallons of water on a hot day. The United States Forest Service Research reports that the typical community forest of 10,000 trees will retain approximately 10 million gallons of rainwater per year.
We have no shortage of noise pollution. Trees play a role in mitigating that, too. Planting "noise buffers" composed of trees and shrubs can reduce noise five to ten decibels. To our ear, that translates into an approximate noise reduction of 50%.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know how much natural capital a tree is worth, please consider planting one in your yard or donating one for the neighborhood. But please, if you donate a street tree, pick something with gravitas: a tree that has benefits for wildlife, air quality and flood control. Trees that will majestically meet in the middle, years from now, forming a lush, green canopy. Relegate the ornamental cherries or pears to your backyard– they have a short life span and are prone to breakage. Ms. Feinman explains, " The type of tree we plant depends on location. We usually plant a variety: elms, locusts, oaks, zelcovas and lindens, all long-lived, hardy trees".
How to Donate a Tree:
In all the tree donation programs, a 2" or 3" caliper (diameter) tree of your choice is ordered, delivered and planted.
Town of Mamaroneck: Trees For Our Town $300. Plaque additional cost.
Village of Larchmont: Tree Fund, $650 includes 5 x 7" aluminum cast plaque
Village of Mamaroneck: Contact Village Manager: 914-777-7700 Prices vary depending on tree choice.