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Thread: Street trees

  1. #1

    Street trees

    I am probably the only planner in the US who does not like street trees in small downtowns. They require enormous nurturing. Public works waters, and tends, and replants. Business owners hate them for obscuring signs. I have always suspected that the tree vandalism blamed on the youth of the town really is perpetrated by merchants who don't like the trees. Trash collects in the street grates. If we want shade in downtown, lets install awnings.

    I am an ardent environmentalist,I love trees, but geeze, lets put them in residential areas, parks and greenways. Lets create clusters mid block.

  2. #2
    Every city and town is a unique situation. One of my pet peeves is when street trees are part of an urban renewal process and significantly block and restrict the view of historical buildings and architecture.

    (an example, Downtown Augusta, GA)

    also a friend of trees

  3. #3
    What I find amazing is the propensity of planners to use trees that are simply
    innapropriate to the environment that they are put into. Why do we put these
    water-pigs into areas that are experiencing water deficits? Beauty is not a significant excuse for there is no beauty in an hideously malnourished money pit. Here in Saskatoon in the heart of the Canadian prairie we have a wealth of these heavy canopy trees that are continually being savaged by our intemperate climate. Saskatchewan has a climate of brutal extremes, we have devastating snowstorms and heavy rains but few gentle rains or snowfalls. It is this type of callous disregard for context that gets to me.

    (Gawd I love this opportunity to vent my spleen, I'm so glad I found this site.)

  4. #4
    I think what you said is not all that far from being totally wrong in the sense that you are a bit out of focus and refuse to see the true vision of any city's intent on using trees for what you think they really aren't used for....ears. Trees are green. Let's face it, they are made mostly of wood, so what's the big deal? I've seen trees that look just fine and have been there since the last time I saw them and no one has said anything about what they are doing there, so why should people like you who obviously pretend to like trees in general but in the same bad breath, vent your frustrations and hatred, rage and murderous ideas that some trees are a problem. Well you are the problem. If a vent swab trips on a root in the city, and there are too many humans making noise and no one hears or helps him up, should a tree even care? I don't think so, and any moron can see that. It doesn't take a Thomas Einstein to figure that out. So I'd suggest you just walk to work and take the alleys where you can pick up garbage to your hearts intent and build an Adena style mound in your back yard so everyone thinks you really do like trees. Save the pulpit hatch timber sermons for someone with an axe to find. It's jerks like you that ruin it for the rest of us.

  5. #5
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Geesh, Beyer really got mean and personal on MKJ.

    I never really thought about the impact and utility of street trees in Main Street environment. MKJ makes some interesting points about the trees blocking visibility and being maintenance hogs.

    I'm not sure whether I agree or disagree, but it certainly has given me something to ponder.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    The ends can justify the means.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I think that street trees in most but all cases can be a good thing. Fredrick Law Olmsted would talk about the need for separation between types of traffic such as auto and pedestrian. Trees provide a safe secure feel to the sidewalks along a busy street. I also believe that there are other environmental benefits of street trees. They absorb noise and air pollution, diffuse heat and sunlight on streets and sidewalks, and reduce the effects of the urban heat model. Finally although they are a mess for one week a year, flowering trees provide an amazing sense of color to otherwise monotone streets. Thus, giving the perception of an interactive and vibrant commercial neighborhood.
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  7. #7

    Rant

    Trees provide a safe secure feel to the sidewalks along a busy street.
    Exactly! In most suburban inland San Diego streets where and WHEN the structure actually comes up to the street, the trees are put up against the structure instead of making a barrier between traffic and people. Maybe it has something to do with utility lines underground? I don't know. And every freaking tree is some subtropical water guzzling invader that has no business in the Mediteranian/desert climate AND either looks like a quasi banana tree (read NO SHADE) or is just ground cover that peaks at about 3 ft. Aesthetically, it's a nightmare. Practically, it has no function (in my mind). People need shade in these parts.

    Edit.

  8. #8
    To those who would characterize trees as 'water pigs', on average dichots (which represent the vast complex of gymnosperms and angiosperms) use approximately 9% of the total water they take up through the root system. The remaining 91% is passed back into the air via transpirational loss through the leaves-- oh, and along the way the tree produces oxygen, cleans the water its distributing, cools the air temperature and in most cases provides a habitat and food source for many animals and birds.

    Dave


    Quote Originally posted by The Irish One
    Exactly! In most suburban inland San Diego streets where and WHEN the structure actually comes up to the street, the trees are put up against the structure instead of making a barrier between traffic and people. Maybe it has something to do with utility lines underground? I don't know. And every freaking tree is some subtropical water guzzling invader that has no business in the Mediteranian/desert climate AND either looks like a quasi banana tree (read NO SHADE) or is just ground cover that peaks at about 3 ft. Aesthetically, it's a nightmare. Practically, it has no function (in my mind). People need shade in these parts.

    Edit.
    I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -- Jack Handy

  9. #9
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    To those who would characterize trees as 'water pigs', on average dichots (which represent the vast complex of gymnosperms and angiosperms) use approximately 9% of the total water they take up through the root system. The remaining 91% is passed back into the air via transpirational loss through the leaves--,
    Is that using a drip or sprinkler head?

    Well I'm not blaming the poor little misplaced plants. Come on man people in this part of the country plant anything they want, why shouldn't the big bad government save a little money on water guzzling tropical glossy green plants that will die off the day we have to actually conserve water. Tropicals don't do well in my part of the globe (San Diego, Ca) unless they're watered plenty in the summer and protected from freeze in the winter. What's the matter with more natives?
    Last edited by The Irish One; 19 Mar 2004 at 2:47 AM.

  10. #10
         
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    Down Peachtree St. by Decatur St. (?--in the actual 5 points of Atlanta, not Little Five) and the Fairlie-Poplar district there are a few trees that are planted at the curb. But once you cross Decatur going south (I guess) down Peachtree, there aren't trees. In place of the trees are potted plants...those things with the dark purple leaves and light pink flowers. I don't know the name. And they are hung probably 15 feet or more up on the lamp posts.

    I think I like the trees more than the high-up dark plants. When walking down the street, you cannot even see the purple plants.

    I agree about planting tropical plants anywhere other than the tropics. That just does not work.

    But trees that can live in the area they are planted in works. Like what was said above, they give asthetics and a safe feeling to the city. I think Atlanta's trees make it friendly and inviting. Come to the "Forest City" of the South!

  11. #11
    Cyburbian ludes98's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bunabayashi
    To those who would characterize trees as 'water pigs', on average dichots (which represent the vast complex of gymnosperms and angiosperms) use approximately 9% of the total water they take up through the root system. The remaining 91% is passed back into the air via transpirational loss through the leaves-- oh, and along the way the tree produces oxygen, cleans the water its distributing, cools the air temperature and in most cases provides a habitat and food source for many animals and birds.

    Dave
    Hmmyeah I am going to have to sort of disagree with you there. Some trees are water pigs, but that depends on where you are standing. Enough can't be said for native vegetation. We are especially sensitive about that here. The desert is no place to grow trees that transplants from the east and midwest did back home. As different as they may be, mesquite and palo verde trees provide shade and great habitat for local birds, without the demands of irrigation. I have a mesquite with an umbrella of shade of about 50', and it only needs water once a month! I removed 8 palm trees from my property when I moved in because they are just worthless for shade and require too much water. It is all relative.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I do think it is important to use native species or at least species suitable to the climate and intended use. I think one of the biggest problems with street trees is the "concrete jungle" efffect: pavement gets extremely hot and is not water (or air) permeable. The heat rising off the pavement can be a serious stressor for the tree and the pavement can strangle the roots. Some trees need for their roots to "breathe", which is why some of them break the sidewalk: it isn't mere happenstance that the roots of certain species make a "spiderweb" effect at ground level but other trees roots are more underground. The various root structures are purposeful, both "architecturally" in creating a stable anchor to the earth for a very tall, skinny plant but also biologically for uptake of necessary nutrients.

    I am not real knowledgeable about plant biology, but I decided to get my undergrad degree in some kind of environmental studies program because I do think that the tendency for planners (of all types, not just those with that word in their job title) to be ignorant of or oblivious to such details is a real source of problems. Such things should be taken into consideration when choosing the type of tree to plant and also when designing the way in which it will be planted. I have seen too many times where plants are put into what amounts to a concrete box, surrrunded by concrete, concrete, more concrete and asphalt for varation. Is it any wonder that such plants are burned and shriveled and die rapidgly thus having to be replanted frequently?

    The lack of permeable ground cover has other serious consequences. In Europe, there are still cobblestone roads and some sidewalks are made with "pavers" that are not solid -- it creates a kind of lattice effect and grass can grow up in the open sections and the ground is permeable to water. This can make a huge difference to things like groundwater recharge, concentration of pollutants in nearby waterbodies, "heat island" effect, and so on. In a downtown area that is intended to be pedestrian-friendly, all of those benefits make it more attractive -- or even simply more tolerable -- to be on foot. Walking across hot pavement will dehydrate people just like it dehydrates the trees that it is baking. A downtown that is tree-friendly will also be more people-friendly.

    If you want to successfully plant street trees, it needs to be done with more care and thought than I see typically practiced. You cannot simply cut a hole in the concrete and stick in a tree. Just as trees thrive or die in nature depending upon the overall environment and whether or not their niche is supported, the streetscape must be viewed from a wholistic perspective for creating a viable environment for their survival. These are living creatures, not "inanimate objects", and cannot simply be placed willy-nilly wherever you decide, with no regard for their needs -- at least not if you want them to work well.

    But I have recently experienced the frustration of being unable to read the signs of the businesses in a downtown area, in part because of the tree cover. I am not sure what to do about that but I am thinking that what works well is for the trees to be tall, the merchants and their signs to be at street level, and anything on the second floor and above can be offices and residences. If the foliage is high enough up, the trunks will not be a big problem in terms of visibility. Also, I am thinking of the old fashioned practice of putting a sign out that is perpendicular to the store front and can be read from both sides. The practice of putting the name of the store only on the building face makes it difficult to see on approach from either direction of the street, whether you are in a car or on foot.

  13. #13
    I understand the "cons" to having trees downtown. But, the pros of their beauty, shade, and life-giving oxygen far outweigh the bad. I cannot imagine not having at least some trees in "downtown anywhere."

  14. #14
          havok's avatar
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    I have to agree with GRID, in a place like Miami. Where there is usually and abundance amount of rainfall, you would think there would be more trees. You look at places like Coral Gables, the Grove, Miami Shores (abundance of trees) and compare them to Hialeah, some parts of the city of Miami, Opa- Locka (where trees are scarce). You feel the difference in temperature- sometimes by 15 degrees especially in the summer.

    In Miami Beach they love to plant Palm trees, which provide very little shade. You just go to a place like Lincoln Rd, which has many different species of shade trees, and wonder why don't they do this throughout the whole city.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    Trees in streets are absolutely important. I think MKJ might have had his own reasons to vent out. HE may actually be a the only such planner in the US. :-P

    Out here when planning for new areas and while doing major transportation corridors we try to keep them as much as in North-South Orientation. And with appropriately planted trees( avenues and sometimes even in wide medians) we ensure that for alarge part of the day the roads are shaded. It makes a lot of difference during hte peak summers when the temperature reaches around 45 C on an average.

    The big problem for me though is the location of trees on the footpaths. To leave a decent width for the trees( and its roots down below) and then also plan the pedestrian path which abuts the frontages of properties is a tough job. Many times due to limited right of ways we compromise on the pedestrian pathway but never on the tree plantation. Therefore sometimes the trees grow wide enough and obstruct the pedestrian path/footpath forcing people to walk on the roads. This is a common sight in India.

    The next issue is definitely watering these trees. In the last few years the civic authorities where I live have planted millions of trees( literally) and greened many medians and area under flyovers. To maintain them not only costs them money( which they get back by leasing the space for advertisements) but also a lot of water. During summers when they are short of water they use the water from a huge lake within the city towater them and many times have to buy water from private water supplying agencies.
    Despite all the challenges,the city has a lot of green in and along the roads and streets now amlmost throughout the year.

    If we are sure that trees are important as Michaelskis put it nicely then there are ways to take care of the watering and other costs.

    Around three months ago I got a tree cut in front of my house because it neither provided shade nor was growing and was infected with some disease. A week from that a cyclonic storm brought down the two other trees too that were in front of my house. Now I have a totally barren streetfront which I plan to green before the monsoon starts.

    BTW in our state there's a Water and Tree Act which prohibits cutting of trees. Do you have any similar legal provisions?
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
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  16. #16
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    as seen in my fair city's newspaper:

    It's not easy being green
    Main Street trees may be uprooted because of bird, maintenance problems

    http://www.myinky.com/ecp/news/artic...796796,00.html

    "The merchants also said the trees block the public's view of structures, making it "hard to appreciate the historic aspect of buildings" and block the signs of the businesses..."

    Nothing has happened yet.
    Oddball
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  17. #17
    Cyburbian H's avatar
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    About a year ago I was working on a "main street" revitalization project and during the meeting process with the local business owners one of the biggest requests was removal of the street trees (that the city had recently planted) becuase no-one could read their signs.

    The number one request was of course more parking, but the pesky trees were high up there.

    Personally I believe there are good and bad trees for an urban streetscape. It is good to have a little green and some shade, but without blocking a view. here in FLA palms are a good street tree.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    I had read this thread in the morning and later in hte fater had a brief chat with the chief planner of our city( I had gone to discuss my work). Even he found the thread topic interesting but was not able to give a clear answer to my question, which was?

    On a side walk if a tree is to be planted should it be towards the property line or the road side edge on the pavement?

    He did mention whether the shade on the road would affect the visibility of road signs & markings on the asphalt.

    In my earlier post I mentioned how the north-south orientation ensures that some part of the road remains in shade because of the buildings on either side( generally G+1 or G+2) and/or the trees.

    The tree type and the root type matter a lot as the trees with buttressess would eat into the walking space and the trees with strong roots may damage the storm water drain linings and even the sewage and water lines.

    I read the link JNA provided and remembered a project proposal prepared by a well known consultant in India. When they presented the block model for a heritage street conservation programme to clean up, organise and beautify the hundred year old facades of the street scape, there were huge trees to add to the greening plan( some kind of a landcsape design fetish I presume and a mistake in this case), thus obstructing the view to the very thing they wanted to be highlighted.
    :-}
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
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  19. #19
    Today our works board will likely refuse the county sheriff's request to remove 11 bradford pear trees along the south side of this building -- in the public r-o-w. The sheriff wants to install security cameras along the correctional portion of this building.

    (Seems the prisoners have figured out how to get an empty ball point pen outside to be filled with contraband and returned to the cell by means of dental floss. I guess you can be pretty creative when you are incarcerated 24/7 )

    While I can be a *tree hugger*, I also recognize that these trees are absolutely the wrong species in the wrong location (over-hybridized, fast growing, weak wooded, poor structural performance). We have so over-planted bradfords that if we didn't plant another one, it would take a century to reach bio-diversity, according to the former city forester.

    The right tree in the right place is my philosophy.

    Can you say :gut-gut-gut-gut - - grrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRR!
    Je suis Charlie

  20. #20
    We have so over-planted bradfords that if we didn't plant another one, it would take a century to reach bio-diversity, according to the former city forester.
    And if a disease specific to this tree came around, the place would look like a dead zone.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    And if a disease specific to this tree came around, the place would look like a dead zone.
    We used to have beautiful Poinsettia's in our front yeard facing the street. But once they had a very bad reddish fungus like disease which literally killed the foliage.


    Originally Posted By Gedunker
    (over-hybridized, fast growing, weak wooded, poor structural performance).
    A popular avenue tree planted isthe Rain Tree('Albizia Saman' or 'Lebbek', I don't remember) because it grew very fast and provided great shade. But during windstorms these trees would fall quickly and do a lot of damage. SO people are vary about them now.

    Earlier the Urban Forestry Departments in our city planted huge chunks of lands with Eucalyptus. These plantations looked very dry prodided little shade and consumed laregr quantities of water. ( Although the by products were useful, they have since discontinued hte practice.

    Another very popular tree and one of my favourites is the 'Delonix Regia' ( an Avenue favourite- as we were taught in our landscape design classes in college),which during flowering would look great but it's buttress roots would damage the pavement and even a huge tree would remain leaf less and actually provide no shade in summer.
    I had to cut one of these outside my house. The Delonix Regia was all over the city once, but no longer.

    As regarding trees very close to buildings I have at least two cases to mention.

    One was about two decades ago when one of my aunt's was visiting( I was a kid then). A snake happened to slide into our house through a tree very close to the first floor bedroom window.

    Second was next to my present house where a large rain tree was at an inclined position almost embracing the neighbours house. All one had to do was to keep walking up the incline on the wide trunk and you could reach the first floor terrace.
    Quite easy for burgalrs really. Fortubately for the neighbour the tree was brought down last month( under my ex[ert supervision of course).
    :-P
    "I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them".
    -Isaac Asimov

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    Editorial in my fair city's newspaper:

    Downtown Green
    The Issue: Bradford pears, birds cause problems on Main Street.
    Our View: Change the trees and keep the charm.

    http://www.courierpress.com/ecp/edit...808498,00.html
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

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