Georgia Voices: Preserve Savannah’s tree canopy
by The Savannah Morning News
July 29, 2014 12:24 AM | 944 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cutting down trees to make room for needed road improvements or for development that creates jobs and boosts Savannah’s economy is the price of progress.

But given the value of a healthy tree canopy, it behooves the community to try to minimize that cost.

City and Chatham County officials recently got a preliminary look at the latest “State of the Trees” analysis, which a Colorado-based company, Plan-It Geo, is conducting, thanks to a $60,000 grant from the Savannah Tree Foundation.

What researchers found should get community leaders thinking. They said the county has been losing the equivalent of three football fields of trees every day for the last 15 years. Most of that tree cover, they said, disappeared in fast-growing areas of west Chatham.

To accommodate all the new houses, businesses, warehouses and parking lots, developers have razed pine plantations and natural hardwood forests. That means the character and the look of that area has been evolving, often permanently. Once a mature oak is removed, it’s gone forever.

Balancing growth and private property rights with the desire to protect trees that contribute to cleaner air, provide natural shade, help with drainage and add aesthetic value has been an ongoing process here for more than 20 years. It dates back to 1993. That’s when a group of stakeholders — including engineers, home builders, developers and architects from the private sector — met with government planners. Their goal was to come up with a vision and help craft public policies and ordinances affecting tree cover and landscaping standards prior to development ...

Trying to maintain that 50 percent cover has been the general goal. Toward that end, the city of Savannah has a reasonable, yet robust landscape and tree ordinance that applies to property being developed or redeveloped for commercial, institutional, multi-family and single-family subdivisions. The county’s engineering department is developing a comprehensive land development ordinance, one that would incorporate existing tree and landscape standards.

Leaders in Chatham’s westside municipalities should be equally motivated to do the same in light of the latest tree study.

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