To Keep Track of Trees, Durham Branches Out to Develop Inventory, Assessment | News

To Keep Track of Trees, Durham Branches Out to Develop Inventory, Assessment

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Monmouth Avenue at Glendale Avenue in Duke Park in Durham has a full canopy covering the street. - PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
  • Photo by Alex Boerner
  • Monmouth Avenue at Glendale Avenue in Duke Park in Durham has a full canopy covering the street.

Durham takes its trees seriously.


In neighborhoods on the west side of town residents take pride in their huge willow oaks—the sprawling branches provide shade in the summer and plenty of leaves to play in during the fall. But those trees are in danger, and will likely die within the next decade. There’s also an equity problem in terms of urban forestry—the neighborhoods on the east side of Durham have few trees.


The city has been working to address both problems—the pending death of many of the street trees and the inequity of trees in the city. On Thursday, members of the City Council were privy to a presentation about what is being done to address the problems.


The city’s general services department had allocated $45,000 in its fiscal year budget to do a willow and water oak street tree inventory and a city-wide tree canopy assessment. The canopy assessment would look at both public and private trees. The inventory, however, will focus on only a portion of Durham.


The inventory will assess the condition of the trees—especially those that will need to be removed in the next two to five years.


Those two tools combined will show what trees will be lost in the future and it’ll also help the city project when trees will die and need replacing, director of general services Steven Hicks told the council. The inventory will focus in an area bounded by West Murray Avenue to the north, Junction Road to the east, Guess Road to the west and University Drive to the south. The focus will be on water and willow oaks in the city right-of-way—but those are just parameters. Club Boulevard, which has a large population of the oaks, has already been inventoried end-to-end, Kevin Lilley of the urban forestry division told the council.


It’ll also help spread the tree love to those areas of the city that are lacking in tree canopy.


“We know, in certain pockets of the community, we need to do a better job of planting trees,” Hicks said.


Once the inventory and assessment are done, the city will be able to add the information to its mapping software and have overlays to show tree canopy density. That canopy assessment, Hicks said, will help the city see where it needs to focus its tree replanting efforts.


While this is good news for Durham, mayor pro tem Cora Cole-McFadden urged Hicks and other city officials to travel on North Roxboro Road to see the difference between it and other areas of Durham—because it’s incredibly obvious that area of the city lacks in trees at many points.


“I’m very serious,” she says. “There is an absence … I’m not going to say what the INDY said about it, I’m just going to say we should look at it.”


What did we say about it?


Well, quite simply, more affluent neighborhoods in Durham have more trees thanks to redlining in the 1930s. Those neighborhoods that were redlined continue to feel the impacts and lack a substantial tree canopy.


Councilman Steve Schewel stated the obvious: “We have to imagine a Durham without these big willow oaks in twenty years.”


Schewel said the inventory and assessment are good first steps to imagine the future of Durham’s tree canopy.


He added he was worried for the future of trees in Durham, especially with an estimated 6,250 willow oaks dying within the next decade.


The inventory is set to cost $28,124 and the assessment will cost $16,876. The general services department hopes to have the inventory completed by the end of November with the canopy assessment completed in early 2017. 

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