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Third graders to plant trees as Atlanta’s proposed tree ordinance revision remains mired in politics

As they are to participate in a tree planting event Friday at Milford Elementary School, in Cobb County, Bank of America volunteers helped students from Columbia Elementary School, in Decatur, plant trees in November.

By David Pendered

In a simple gesture of respect for the environment, third-grade pupils at Milford Elementary School in Cobb County are to plant 41 trees Friday.

As they are to participate in a tree planting event Friday at Milford Elementary School, in Cobb County, Bank of America volunteers helped students from Columbia Elementary School, in Decatur, plant trees in November.

Bank of America volunteers helped students from Columbia Elementary School, in Decatur, plant trees in November. On Friday, BoA volunteers are to help pupils from Milford Elementary School, in Cobb County, plant trees. Credit: Special

The pupils, with adult supervision, are to dig holes and plant trees near the school at the intersection of Austell and Windy Hill roads. This congested intersection is the crossroads of Windy Hill Road, which links communities in Paulding County with job centers in north metro Atlanta, and Austell Road (Ga. 5), which is a major north-south corridor through central Cobb County.

The youngsters are to plant species including American linden, serviceberry, eastern red cedar, and cathedral live oak. The effort involves Bank of America and volunteers with Trees Atlanta. The trees were funded through a ReLeaf grant provided by American Forests.

The project kicks off two other tree-planning events scheduled for the weekend, weather permitting. Trees Atlanta has scheduled tree-planting projects in Midtown and and Kirkwood on Saturday.

Bank of America has been working a number of years with schools in metro Atlanta to promote tree-planting programs. The effort is based in the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, which has identified environmental sustainability as a component of its program for corporate social responsibility.

The foundation partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to fund tree assessments in five cities through the American Forest Community ReLeaf program. In addition to Atlanta, the program conducted assessments in Asbury Park, N.J.; Detroit; Nashville; and Pasadena, Ca.

Atlanta's heat island

This satellite image of metro Atlanta, taken Sept. 28, 2000, shows developed areas as grey and wooded suburbs and fields as green. Credit: earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Results of the Atlanta study, conducted in 2014, were included with a statement about the tree planting by the Medford Elementary pupils:

  • The study used satellite imagery and provided neighborhood-level information that relates to income, race and age.
  • The tree canopy removes about 3.6 million pounds of air pollution each year.
  • The removal of this level of air pollution translate to an estimated $12.6 million in health benefits.

In an matter related to the region’s urban canopy, but unrelated to the tree plantings, the Atlanta City Council continues to struggle with a proposal to update the city’s tree ordinance.

The council on March 2 voted to hold the legislation, again.

The legislation, 14-O-1474, was introduced in September and has been described in divergent terms.

Some city officials describe the legislation as the most sweeping revision since 2001 of the city’s tree ordinance. Others contend the changes are mostly technical in nature, and will have little effect on the city’s tree canopy and those who want to remove trees, or to plant trees to comply with  regulations.

The legislation was drafted by the city’s park department. Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration anticipated the council would adopt the legislation at its Oct. 20 meeting. Things didn’t go as planned.

On Oct. 14, the Department of Planning asked for the paper to be held. The department wanted to provide time for the city’s neighborhood planning units to review the proposals.

The council’s Community Development Committee conducted a public hearing on the proposal on Dec. 9, followed by a work session on the plan.

The city released a fact sheet in October that included highlights such as:

  • Credit doubled for shade trees planted on properties from which they were removed.
  • Credit authorized for innovative building techniques to preserve trees on private land.
  • Credit authorized for green infrastructure improvements to preserve trees on public land.
  • Parking lot requirements doubled to provide more space for trees to grow to maturity.
  • Emphasis on planting shade trees.
  • Tree trust fund authorized for tree canopy study updates; support of methods that help retain mature trees along sidewalks; and for the purchase of forest land protected in perpetuity.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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1 Comment

  1. bryanflake1984 March 24, 2015 2:22 pm

    This is so cool that these kids are helping their community.  Trees are an important aspect of the world around us.  I told my four year old daughter about this story and she thinks that helping the world be better is such a fun idea.  I think she’d love it if we got involved in an initiative like this the next time one happens.


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