Efforts to preserve urban forests in a changing Nashville are underway

David Smith | GCA New

releafing day

NTF-trained “Green Shirt Volunteers” were on hand at the tree planting event to give planting instructions, loan out tools and provide a light breakfast. – photo by NTF

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On Saturday November 18, hundreds of volunteers  converged to plant more than 300 powerline-friendly trees in Nashville. neighborhoods and at eight Metro Nashville Schools.
The activity represents one of many tree planting initiatives sponsored by Nashville Electric Service, Nashville Tree Foundation (NTF), and Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division.

In addition to sponsoring the plantings, the Nashville Tree Foundation is charged with identifying the oldest and largest trees in Davidson County, designating arboretums, and educating the public about the value of trees.

The group hopes to show residents how forests and tree cover  play a vital role in urban communities.

“We are so excited about the impact of these projects,” Carolyn Sorenson, director of Nashville Tree Foundation, said. At Wright Middle School on Saturday, November 18 nearly 40 trees were planted to help shade the property, reduce stormwater runoff, and enhance the school’s reading garden.

“Wright Middle School will qualify to become an arboretum with the variety of trees they received,” Sorenson added.

Nashville Tree Foundation designates one or two arboretums each year on land where different trees and shrubs are grown for study or popular interest. A site can have 75 or more named and labeled specimens, or as few as 25 in unique, natural or wayside areas.

Recent national research has shown that healthy trees can add approximately 10 percent to the value of a property, and homes with treed lots sell faster than those without trees. In business districts, customers spend up to 11 percent more and prefer to shop in areas where trees and landscaping are attractive and well maintained.

This is why Sorenson says NTF shares a common goal with organizations like NES and the Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division who are also working to increase public awareness about the important socio-economic, health and environmental benefits that trees produce as well as ways to identify threats to local tree species.

“We are especially excited about this partnership,” said Sorenson, “and we are excited to explore similar opportunities with other groups experiencing dramatic canopy loss in their neighborhoods.”

Sorenson says healthy forests can improve a community’s quality of life.

Some evidence even shows a correlation between access to trees and a reduction in crime and stress, shorter hospital stays, lower blood pressure and a reduced need for medication.
But development and changing weather patterns have caused tree loss in many areas where communities need them.

“Development and the emerald ash borer threaten to wipe out at least ten-percent of our canopy in the coming decade,” she said.

Fortunately, trees are a renewable resource. In fact, overall, Tennessee’s forests are growing considerably faster than they are being harvested.

In total, more than 250 shade trees and 50 fruit trees were planted over the weekend.
“The trees planted in neighborhoods were power line-friendly:  redbud, sweet bay magnolia and crape myrtle,” the director told The News.  The fruit trees included Fuji apple, Bartlett Pear, and Elberta peach.

According to NTF, a community’s urban forest is made up of every tree found there – in parks, along streets, on golf courses and in backyards. An urban forest canopy is defined as the total land area covered by trees.

To sign up or to learn more about tree planting events visit nashvilletreefoundation.org