We need your help – with ideas on how we can preserve and enhance College Park’s tree canopy.

Tonight, the City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposed tree ordinance. The ordinance is being proposed to address the City’s declining number of tree stock that happened over recent years.

From 2009 to 2018, City’s tree canopy has gone down from 44% to 38%. Based on the declining rate, it’s estimated that the current canopy level is at 37%. This means the City has potentially lost about 43,000 trees between 2009 and now. A small fraction of this loss, unfortunately, was caused by developments (around 2% of total loss). The utility company Pepco also contributed to this loss (around 0.5%) due to their PSC-mandated tree clearance work.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of these losses occurred in the residential neighborhood as can be seen by the tree loss map presented in the 2019 Tree Canopy Assessment report.

Inaction to address the declining loss means the loss will continue and the City may potentially lose another 24,000 trees by 2025.

As part of the City’s 2021-2025 strategic plan, the City Council has set a goal to turn this declining rate of tree stock and add instead 18,000 trees (40% canopy) by 2025. With this goal in mind, the City Council has changed City’s Tree and Landscaping Board (TLB) to come up with a proposal to preserve and enhance City’s tree canopy in the future.

Among several recommendations, the TLB has asked the City to increase the funds for the existing Tree Canopy Enhancement Program (TCEP), and create a new fund called Tree Maintenance Fund (TMF), to help residents with costs associated with tree maintenance and assessment of trees on their properties. TLB also asked to run an intensive educational campaign among residents about the importance of tree preservation and planting and to create a tree registry.

The TLB has also recommended working with the County government to change the tree canopy-related development laws so that the developers must replant trees lost during developments and asked the City to lobby the County so that the residents can take rain check rebates for planting trees on their properties.

Additionally, the TLB studied tree ordinances in other local towns that faced similar issues with declining loss of trees and recommended a tree ordinance. This ordinance includes a proposal to include enforcement and penalties for removing trees greater than 36” in circumference (12” in diameter) or pruning more than 20% of a tree canopy without a permit. The permit program also asks to implement a tree replacement requirement for tree canopy protection policy.

The Council will hold a public hearing on this ordinance at tonight’s meeting, starting at 7:30 pm. If you cannot attend the meeting, please send your comments to the Mayor and Council at cpmc@collegeparkmd.gov before 5 pm today. The City Council will, however, will not vote on this topic tonight. Instead, we’ll have a brief discussion about the next step in the proposed ordinance.