By Teri Nye, Park Designer at Park Pride (and person who draws)

This column provides an update to Teri Nye’s July 2019 column, Atlanta: The City in the Saplings? and an initial response to last week’s Tree Protection Ordinance Public Meeting.

Park Pride is a member of the Atlanta Canopy Alliance, whose goals include educating the public about the tree ordinance revision. The Alliance focuses on a three-point platform to meet the City of Atlanta’s stated goal of 50% tree canopy coverage within city limits:

  • Buy forested land,
  • Plant more trees, and
  • Protect the existing tree canopy.

Upon leaving last week’s Tree Protection Ordinance (TPO) Public Meeting hosted by Atlanta’s Department of City Planning, I thought it would be helpful to re-emphasize some of the points I raised earlier this summer. In particular, I must re-emphasize the importance of protecting our existing tree canopy and accurately valuing the services and benefits that mature trees provide.

The image below is taken from the slide deck presented at the meeting by the Department of City Planning (view the full presentation). It suggests that the value of a mature tree can be calculated based on the number of small trees that would fit within its circumference.

On private property, for example, this value (or “cost”) would be paid by a developer or a homeowner either (a.) as cash to the Tree Recompense Fund, or (b.) by planting the equivalent number of smaller trees to replace the larger. The logic of this suggested method of tree valuation begs the question “Are lots of new small trees equal to one or two existing trees?” (Image below from my video, Tree Talk.)

Image: Teri Nye

The answer is no, lots of new small trees are not equal to one or two existing trees. Although planting new trees is a key factor in maintaining Atlanta’s healthy tree canopy, the fact is that large, mature trees provide value and services that cannot be equaled by several smaller trees. For example:

Image: Teri Nye
Image: Teri Nye
Image: Teri Nye
Image: Teri Nye

Park Pride supports a strengthened tree ordinance that does more to protect our existing trees. Real values must be placed on our trees to reflect the full ecosystem and infrastructure services that trees provide. A Tree Protection Ordinance that is stronger than what is currently in place is necessary to ensure we meet the City of Atlanta’s stated goal of 50% tree canopy coverage and remain true to our reputation as “the city in the forest.”

View my complete video below and review the materials from last week’s public meeting and all the meetings prior on the Department of City Planning’s website. Then contact your council representative and let them know that you support a stronger tree ordinance that does more to protect existing trees.  A stronger tree ordinance is a critical part of the Atlanta Canopy Alliance’s three-prong approach that will ensure Atlanta maintains its lush and diverse canopy of trees for generations to come! Join us in taking the time to speak for the trees!

YouTube video

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  1. Wonderful drawings, Teri! Thank you for your info and ideas. And yes! We love trees. Thank you for the info presented by planning at the meeting. The second meeting was cancelled because we as a group refused to use their flawed matrix to value trees (their reason for cancelling is that they could not get public feedback but we spent 45 minutes giving them feedback!). Why is the city planning department stalling? Why have they hired yet another consulting group when they have already heard loud and clear what the public wants? We want a Tree Ordinance that actually protects trees! The “draft” they set forth does not save trees! If you care about trees please join The City in The Forest and The Tree Next Door to get more info and help us save trees!

  2. Thanks for sharing your insights. There is rampant clear cutting all across the city by developers whose sole goal is maximizing the buildable area of the new home they put in the ground. The zoning rule that allows a builder who builds a duplex on a former single family homesite to build out nearly the entire lot is a joke. Such a rule leaves no room for trees and ensures that every existing tree on the site is coming down. This is becoming an ever more popular tactic to maximize the value of a lot – unfortunately, the public is subsidizing this type of development because we end up paying the cost in greater stormwater runoff and lower air quality, and the trees that are removed are significantly undervalued by the current ordinance. Writing to our council representative is a must for everyone concerned about this issue. They need to know we care about this and that they will be held accountable if we don’t come out of this process with a ordinance that actually protects the canopy.

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