Is anyone else heartbroken or incensed about the eight beautiful pin oak trees lining Garrett Street that recently were cut down to make way for the Apex headquarters, an environmentally designed and energy-efficient new building to be constructed between 2nd and Gleason streets?

Is anyone else struck by the irony of placing such emphasis on an environmentally designed building while removing one of the most effective tools we have for abating pollution and decreasing the impact of climate change? Is there any recognition of the hypocrisy of the city’s plans and strategies to be a “green city” while the day-to-day actions of the city’s development process are in direct conflict with those plans?

According to the city’s Vision Statement, Charlottesville’s citizenry lives in a community with “a vibrant urban forest, tree-lined streets and lush green neighborhoods.” In its Comprehensive Plan, it promises its citizens to “expand and protect the overall tree canopy of the city” and to be responsible stewards of the natural environment, as measured by the number of trees planted and energy saving strategies implemented.

Here's what we know:

» Charlottesville’s tree canopy decreased 5% from 2005 to 2015.

» Over the past three years the city has removed more trees on public property than it has planted.

» Many new residential neighborhoods are lacking tree strips that allow large-canopy trees to be planted.

When Charlottesville was developing the Streets that Work Design Manual, the oak-lined streets on 2nd and Garrett streets were used to show that “trees make streets comfortable, walkable and memorable. Trees provide shade, oxygen, and reduce the urban heat island effect.” 

Survey results taken at the event in response to the question “Which design aspects are most important to improving Charlottesville’s streets?” showed that one of the most-popular response was “more street trees,” second only to bike lanes.   

Just what exactly is Charlottesville trying to demonstrate about the value of trees, and why aren’t city leaders listening to citizens’ input for more street trees?

Many recent studies stress the value of planting trees in the fight against climate change, as well as to provide environmental justice for residents of lower socio-economic areas who suffer more from heat-related illnesses, higher energy costs and poorer air quality, conditions that are not associated with greener and higher-income neighborhoods.

C’mon: Let’s make Charlottesville green again!

Roxanne White

Charlottesville

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