At City Hall, the Maples Scream Oppression, And the Oaks Just Shake Their Heads

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Bob Curry, chair of the city's Urban Forest Advisory Committee, came to the council's Quality of Life Committee this morning with a warning: Come spring, we'll learn how many Dallas's trees will be lost to devastating summer weather. He said: Look no further than Houston. Down there, he said, there are 660 million trees -- and it's expected that 66 million will be lost due to the drought. Maybe more. Dallas, he said, will also lose many millions of trees. Cue the audible gasps.

Which is one reason among many Curry came to the council committee with a proposal to revise the tree and landscaping ordinance -- an ordinance that is supposed to either keep developers from clear-cutting large areas of land or force them to repay or replant elsewhere. But as Sandy Greyson said: City Hall's not enforcing that. At all. "I've been told that part of the problem with the existing tree ordinance is a lack of will to enforce," she said. "I don't know if that's the case or not, and if it is I'd like to see something in writing that doesn't give them the flexibility."

Greyson and Curry pointed to familiar sites that have seen their tree populations decimated in recent years: Timbercreek, Walnut Hill and Central Expressway, Grady Niblo. Said Greyson of the Walnut Hill site: "It's [been] left there for years and years and years and is unacceptable." (Update: Trammell Crow Company would like to remind that it "fully complied with the city tree ordinance," even exceeding it, when developing Timbercreek.)

As it stands now, developers are supposed to replace or pay into the reforestation fund for trees they cut down when they develop a site. But they don't, not always. And, Curry said: Developers forced to mitigate tree decimation scoff at the high costs and insist certain pieces of property are rendered undevelopable, "especially in Southern Dallas." So we're stuck, he said. Stuck. Unless, that is, city staff is given further leeway to interpret the ordinance. The council's not prepared to do that. That will take some convincing.

And this discussion, like the one surrounding the street-vending ordinance, didn't get past the introductory phase this morning. Angela Hunt wants more folks to chime in -- from Sustainable Development, from Housing, from all over. "We don't have a beach," said Hunt, or mountains. "But we do have trees, and that makes a difference to our neighborhoods."

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19 comments
JM
JM

Mitigation which exchanges native tree loss for nursery grown trees planted elsewhere may  seem like an acceptable trade but the reality is that the planted trees have a lower life expectancy and are far more vulnerable to drought conditions for far longer than the two years or so they are supposed to be maintained.So even a properly enforced tree ordinance comes up short in the long run. But the Dallas 'butcher the tree until you might as well have cut it down mentality" makes me think not too many people care anyway.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

I hiked at Devon Anderson Park Saturday morning. It a few feet there were Shin Oaks, Post Oaks, Bur Oaks, and Ashe Juniper. We have the largest urban bottomland hardwood forest in America, the Great Trinity Forest, Most of that is second growth, but there are beautiful old trees. Trees clean our air. They provide shade, oxygen and habitat. I walk alot, it makes a big difference where there is shade. 

I'll add that if you look at the native oaks, they are doing much better than the exotics around town.

Green Source DFW
Green Source DFW

Published an interview with Texas Trees Foundation on the damage they suffered this summer - http://greensourcedfw.org/arti...

If it is the case that these rules are not being enforced that's a shame. Why is it that developers so often fail to see that a tree or green space is not an impediment to high value but a value added? Especially in urban settings. The Walnut Hill wasteland is a big clue, as is the success of main street garden.

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

+500 life points for the Rush reference, Robert.

G_David
G_David

I say the developers all get equal, hatchet, axe and saw.  At least until they can come up with something besides an ass-ugly strip shopping center full of big-box retailers that I will never have reason to patronize.

scottindallas
scottindallas

I doubt that the new trees are inferior to those they remove.  Many of those trees are no doubt Hackberries,  Chinaberries, and other trees that don't fare as well as our 4 oaks, Pecans, Cedar Elms and Pistachios. 

Now the tree planter spaces, such as that depicted in the photo above live an average of 7 years and should be discontinued for large shade trees.  I've planted mixed groves of trees for developers for this kind of mitigation and we likely introduced a superior blend of native trees, both shade trees and understory--including Red, Bur, and Live Oaks, Cedar Elms, Mexican Plums, Eve's Necklaces, Possumhaw Holly, Western Dogwoods and others.  Sadly, these mixed groves aren't more common. 

I appreciate your comments that large trees need more care than for two years, most commercial development does indeed to this, I just wish there were larger groves installed to replace those they've destroyed.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

There can be few things as appreciated as bluebirds, perfect bagels, and trees in a city.-There's a lovely half "allee" of trees along the front of St. Mark's.-I think there's a Bur Oak on a median (!) on Inwood just north of Forest, which if it is a Bur suprised me.-Lincoln Properties deserves every award and then some for its fantastic management of all the trees that grace the Village.  What an oasis; no matter how much they make, their tree guys are not paid enough.-The trees at the zoo in New Orleans, of all places, are astounding.  And they are post-Katrina.

Additionally, trees as fractals can fill a quiet afternoon.

G_David
G_David

Not to mention the hundreds of palm trees in my E. Dallas area that froze this winter.

G_David
G_David

Can I get at least 50 for furthering it?

RTGolden
RTGolden

yeah, to hell with the tens of thousands of people who do have reason to visit a big-box store

JM
JM

Dig up a container grown tree 8-10 years after planting, many of their roots are still going around in circles.  Yes, this can be due to poor planting practices and poor nursery practice, but it's still all too common. Not a reference to variety, rather to vigor and long term viability. You may do a better job in tree selection, and your mixed groves sound great.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Probably off-topic, but I have a drought-tolerant landscaping question for you.  I have been told that Artemisia makes a good shrub, low to moderate water usage, quick growth and bug/disease tolerant.  Any suggestions on whether it is a good choice here in Dallas?  (my source was from central texas, not up here)

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

you can often tell bur oaks by the size of the acorns. They are huge. Hence the latin name, Quercos Macro Carpa. (large fruit.).

I hiked with Ben, a contributor to UP last weekend. I'm sure he'll be writing about it soon. We hiked at the historic White Rock Spring, there's a huge Bur Oak there. It took three of us, to circle the trunk at the bottom. Beautiful. 

G_David
G_David

Simmer down there sport, there are already enough of those for every person in the metroplex.  And I guess you enjoy ass-ugly, which is certainly your prerogative.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Those roots are seldom much of a problem, it can be of course.  Most larger trees are sold balled and burlapped and those trees are less prone to girdling roots.  In fact, the more native trees are likely field collected and hence not grown in containers ever.

G_David
G_David

Absolutely, I would sink my life savings in Artemisia shrubs if I were you.  Not really, I have no idea.

BigTex
BigTex

We had quite a large bur oak in our backyard on Merrimac in East Dallas when we rented over there. Its an awesome experience to hear those bombs, acorns, drop off and nail the roof! Not to mention dodging them in the backyard. In Louisiana they call them Cow Oaks but I dont know if its cause the acorns are as big as a cow or that cows eat em.

RTGolden
RTGolden

All I'm saying is the city has more to consider than the all-important aesthetic enjoyment of G-David.  Personally I like small shops in park-like settings or small downtown shops with hitchin' rails, it's what we had, somewhat, back home (before the invasion of Wal-Mart).  I do, however, realize that my preferences amount to boo-diddly squat in relation to the greater common good.

Trees would seem to be more than somewhat supportive of the greater common good, so you have that going for you.

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