Snohomish to place mindful eye on its trees
SNOHOMISH — The city is placing a full-hearted focus on trees.
In addition to seeking the honor of being designated a Tree City USA, it plans to undertake a citywide tree inventory.
When polled last week, a majority of City Council members voiced support for new rules on tree protection that the city is exploring.
At least four of the seven City Council members favor requiring a permit to remove a tree from private property, and support requiring that a property owner replaces the tree that was removed.
Council members Donna Ray, Karen Guzak and David Flynn said at the meeting they’d support creating city codes to govern these actions.
Councilwoman Lea Anne Burke said she would generally support these policies as well, but emphasized in an interview that there are multiple layers in any tree rulebook.
A good tree policy considers the whole picture, Burke said. “If we have common-sense policies, especially on tree health and removal, it makes sense,” she said.
After completing the tree inventory, the city will study it to focus on tree maintenance and evaluate where to plant new trees where they might be needed most. New plantings would be “particularly in low-equity parts of the city,” a summary by city planner Brooke Eidem says.
Trees cool a local area and provide shade. Tree coverage is a well-documented environmental justice issue on the basis that residents in lower-income areas have fewer trees around, either in yards or planted along the street.
A chorus of residents spoke with appreciation at last week’s City Council meeting on how the city will be giving this level of attention to trees.
“Being a Tree City USA is a healthy step for our community and families,” Marilene Richardson told the council.
Getting Snohomish designated as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation would take a few steps: The city must form a citizens’ tree board, celebrate Arbor Day annually and commit to at least about $20,000 a year for tree care. The commitment can be through equivocal volunteer hours, not just cash.
Monroe and Everett both already have this designation.
Burke said the city could ensure residents have a resource guide for tree care practices as part of the tree management plan.
The cities of Redmond, Sammamish, Kirkland and Shoreline all govern when a permit is needed to remove a tree from private property, but vary on how: Some base the need for a permit from a minimum trunk size; while other cities require a permit if taking out multiple trees. Some of these cities call on having an arborist check a tree’s health before allowing its removal.
City Council President Tom Merrill said it’s too early in the process for him to give formal positions on the idea of requiring permits.
“I strongly advocate that we determine approaches to maintain and enhance the tree canopy in the city, both public and private,” Merrill wrote by email.
The city applied for a state grant to help defray the cost of producing a tree inventory, and will learn soon if it won.
There are 115 cities in Washington state that are recognized as a Tree City USA.
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