Trees and the CIP

Commissioner Lahendro's recommendation
Last night the Planning Commission recommended the approval of the Capital Improvement budget with some important additions. One of the additions was brought on by Commissioner Lahendro’s commentary on the amount for trees requested by Parks&Recreation: (read the story at Charlottesville Tomorrow)

The 2018 CIP proposal in front of us now includes $50,000 per year for the Urban Tree Preservation and Planting line item.  This represents a 60% reduction in Parks & Rec original request for $125,000 to perform this work.  The original request was carefully considered with input from the Tree Commission.  This line item must cover maintenance and preservation of city owned trees that includes:  1) treatments for Emerald Ash Borer and Dutch Elm Disease (estimated at $20K); 2) structural pruning and arboreal maintenance of downtown mall trees and Corner trees (estimated at $25K); and, 3) arboreal maintenance of other city trees in parks, road right-of-ways, schools, etc. (estimated at $30K).  Proactively maintaining and preserving the City’s existing trees alone will cost $25,000 MORE than this CIP’s total amount.  Needless to say, there will be no funds available for planting new trees or replacing trees that are removed due to storm damage or age. 
This news is especially disturbing coming on the heels of last year’s Tree Canopy Study which found that Charlottesville experienced a canopy loss of 6.2% (roughly 420 acres) over the past ten years. 
Parks & Rec was able to offset insufficient funding for City trees in recent years with the infusion of VDOT funding for the parkway and route 29 projects.  That funding is now gone.  The 2013 Comprehensive Plan’s goal to “expand and protect the overall tree canopy of the City” cannot be achieved with the currently proposed CIP funding level.  To simply maintain the City’s current trees will require about $75,000.  To meet Tree Commission recommendations to plant 200 new trees per year, at a cost of about $50,000, will require a total CIP funding level of $125,000.  I urge the Planning Commission and City Council to increase the Urban Tree Preservation and Planting CIP line item to $125,000.  To accept the proposed, much reduced CIP funding level is to knowingly decrease protection and maintenance of the City’s existing trees and totally eliminate the planting of new trees.  The City’s tree canopy will continue to decline along with the health and financial benefits it provides to our community.