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Atlanta to invest nearly $1 million in tree planting, programs about urban forest

Trees Atlanta is slated to plant about 4,000 trees throughout Atlanta and provide various programs to teach people about the importance of trees, according to legislation pending before the Atlanta City Council.

The tree-planting program is part of Atlanta’s ongoing effort to maintain its tree canopy. The canopy covers 47.9 percent of the entire city, making Atlanta the most densely covered city in the country. But the canopy varies widely by area, according to a 2014 analysis conducted on behalf of the Department of Planning and Community Development.

For example, North Buckhead has the densest canopy, at 71 percent. The least dense tree canopy, at 8 percent, is in an area spanning downtown Atlanta, Castleberry Hill, Old Fourth Ward, and Sweet Auburn, according to the analysis completed by Georgia Tech and released by the Atlanta Tree Conservation Commission, a citizen group appointed by the mayor and council.

Trees are to be planted starting in mid-October and all trees are to be planted by April 15, 2017. Trees Atlanta is to tend each tree for two years, and replace any that die. The decision on who’s to pay for the replacement tree, meaning Trees Atlanta or the city, depends on the circumstances of the tree’s death.

The legislation aims to provide about 3,400 trees in areas where the tree canopy is less than 48 percent, based on a study completed in 2008.

The remaining 600 trees, or so, are to be divided among Atlanta’s 15 council districts. Each of the 12 district councilmembers is be asked to submit a request that recommends areas in need of trees, and is to receive 40 trees. Each of the three citywide districts, the at-large posts, is to receive 40 trees at locations recommended by the at-large councilmembers.

The legislation doesn’t say much about what types of trees are to be selected, other than that they are to be healthy and planted at the appropriate time of year for the species. Atlanta Parks Commissioner Amy Phuong is to be authorized to request certain species and certain locations for trees.

Each tree is to be a “15 gallon tree.” It’s a common size and provides a tree from 6 feet to 12 feet high, with a diameter of half-inch to one inch, according to a report on oclandscape.com.

The city has agreed to pay Trees Atlanta, a non-profit organization, up to $912,250 for its services. The money is to come from Atlanta’s Tree Trust Fund. The fund gets its money from fees paid by developers and homeowners as recompense for trees that are cut down on private property.

Here’s how the proposed budget breaks down:

  • Tree planting – up to $813,750;
  • 24 tree walks, about two hours long and guided by a certified arborist, horticulturist, or landscape architect – $12,000; Tree canopy by NPU
  • Two programs, of 21 hours, to teach people to be tree stewards – $9,800;
  • 14 tree pruning classes, about 2.5 hours of hands-on training – $7,200;
  • 22 events in a speakers series that’s free to the audience – $33,000;
  • 150 classroom visits to teach students in grades kindergarten through 12th the importance of urban forests – $33,000;
  • A hands-on certification program for 100 students, in elementary and middle school grades, about the urban forest – $5,000.

The legislation is to be discussed Wednesday by members of the council’s Finance Committee and could be voted on by the full council as early as Oct. 5.

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