By Patricia Holloway
Last fall, the City of San Clemente applied to the National Arbor Day Foundation to become a Tree City USA. Communities seek this special designation for guidance in expanding their urban forest.
To qualify, a city complies with four standards:
1. Establish a Tree Board
2. Enact a Tree Ordinance
3. Budget for Tree Care
4. Celebrate Arbor Day
Based on a recent inventory, San Clemente maintains 15,000 public trees. Currently, the city removes more trees than it plants. We must help reverse this trend.
Trees have it rough. Between prolonged periods of drought, disease, vandalism, storm damage and old age, it’s not easy being green! Together with trees on private land, the city’s canopy coverage is 21%. This is less than the national average of 27% and that of neighboring cities.
This Arbor Day gives us an opportunity to turn things around by fostering a culture of care for trees. The Garden Club, Citizens’ Climate Education, and both Rotary Clubs are donating time and treasure toward helping San Clemente plant large trees at Forster Ranch Community Park.
Come by at 9 a.m. on April 28 to join the action.
People ask what they can do to support trees in their yards and neighborhoods. Here are some answers:
- Protect mature trees. Mature trees are at their peak environmental powers. Their leaves absorb CO2 and release oxygen; their shade cools the air and ground; well-developed root systems draw water to the surface in dry times and retain water in wet times; they provide wildlife habitat, improve human health, and increase property values. They’re beautiful.
- Don’t top or severely prune trees. Topping causes permanent damage and weakens limbs. Also, no more than 25% of a tree’s foliage should be removed at once. Without leaves, a tree cannot feed itself. This shortens its lifespan.
- Water trees, even during drought. Trees are exempt from water conservation restrictions, so please water trees even when constrained in watering your lawn or shrubs.
- Water new trees weekly. Apply 15 to 20 gallons of water, especially in hot weather. Create a moat around the tree 2-4 feet away from the trunk. Turn the hose on low and measure how many minutes it takes to fill a five-gallon bucket. Multiply that by three or four and leave the hose trickling in the moat for that length of time.
- Water mature trees monthly. Place the hose by the drip line (where the tree’s canopy ends). Water slowly to a depth of 18 inches.
- Replace trees. If you must remove a tree, buy a new one to take its place. If a tree is removed on your street or HOA common area, ask the city or HOA to replant one in an appropriate location.
- Support funding. Ask City Councils to allocate additional dollars toward planting trees in their annual budget. Trees are the only “infrastructure” to increase in value over time.
By planting trees on Arbor Day and throughout the year, San Clemente will enlarge its village forest and truly become a Tree City USA.
Patricia Holloway has lived and worked in San Clemente for 40 years. She has a B.S. in environmental planning from UC Davis and a master’s degree in city and regional planning from UC Berkeley. She’s a member of the local chapter of Citizens’ Climate Education and can be reached at email@example.com.
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