Trees in a College Park park

The urban forest in College Park is under threat due to new construction and individual tree removal, the city’s tree canopy has been steadily declining since 2009 – a report has concluded.

At tomorrow’s Council meeting, the City Council will hear a presentation about the City-wide Tree Canopy Assessment. The City secured a consultant SavATree LLC to perform the assessment and to prepare the report. The tree canopy was assessed utilizing a combination of satellite imagery and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) data.

The report also concludes that preserving the existing tree canopy is critical. Recent losses of the tree canopy, particularly on private land, highlight some of the threats to the city’s overall tree canopy.

While ordinances can help to prevent tree removal, it is difficult to legislate tree care and tree planning on private land, necessitating other approaches.

There is however hope. Residents hold the key. A clear majority of the city’s tree canopy is on residential land or on rights-of-way in residential areas. How residents value the trees in and around their property may very well be the determining factor in how the city’s tree canopy changes over the coming decade. If residents fail to care for their trees and plant new ones to replace those that have been lost the city’s urban tree canopy will continue to decline.

An analysis of the city’s tree canopy based on land cover data derived from circa 2018 data found that 1341 acres of the city is covered by tree canopy (termed Existing Tree Canopy). This represents 38% of all of the land within the City. An additional 43% (1545 acres) of the city’s land area contains space to accommodate tree canopy (termed Possible Tree Canopy). Within the Possible category, 28% (1009 acres) of total land area was classified as Vegetated Possible and another 15% (536 acres) as Impervious Possible. Establishing tree canopy on areas classified as Impervious Possible will have a greater impact on water quality and
summer temperatures while planting on Vegetated Possible (grass/shrub), will generally be easier. 19% (742 acres) of the city is generally not suitable for establishing new tree canopy (buildings and roads).

Additionally, the report encourages to continue mapping, monitoring, and inventorying.

This project was able to provide insights into changes to the city’s tree canopy over the past decade The Council will have a few options to consider:
(a) Support funding requests for tree planting on public and private lands
(b) Consider a new ordinance to address tree removals on private property
(c) Support tree planting in the public right-of-way to increase tree canopy where there is a distinct potential planting space

You can see the full report in our council agenda packet here: (page 4)