Why and How Dallas Residents Should Plant More Trees
Dallas needs more trees, and the reason why may not be what you’d expect. Even though Dallas is home to the Great Trinity Forest, one of the largest urban forests in the U.S., parts of the city are lacking trees and the result is a dangerous urban heat island effect.
Anyone who lives in Dallas would say there’s enough heat in the city, especially in the summers when North Texas temperatures reach over 100 degrees. But due to the lack of trees from deforestation, residents suffer from higher degrees than what they would normally experience. While some people are used to dealing with extreme temperatures, the reality is that the urban heat island effect exacerbates health issues for adults and children with asthma and cardiovascular conditions.
In 2015, the Texas Trees Foundation began mapping the tree coverage in Dallas via aerial images to find out which areas lacked trees and would be most affected by the urban heat island effect. They discovered that Dallas has a 29 percent canopy coverage and some neighborhoods have less than 10 percent. The worst neighborhood? Oak Cliff.
With this map in hand, volunteers planted treesin Oak Cliff as part of the Cool and Connected Oak Cliff project in early 2018, planting about 1,000 trees so far. This is good news—not just for Oak Cliff but Dallas as a whole—as the Texas Trees Foundation discovered that by just planting trees, Dallas locals could curb temperatures in the city by as much as 15 degrees on hot days, an exciting prospect for anyone who has lived through a Dallas summer.
Cooler days aren’t the only benefits to planting trees. More trees in neighborhoods can protect pedestrians, as they signal for drivers to slow down. Trees also clean air, decrease air pollution, save water, and lower noise pollution.
To curb the urban heat island effect in Dallas, the Texas Tree Foundation estimated that the city will need to plant about 300,000 trees. This may feel like a pretty big feat, but it can be done. Oak Cliff has already laid the groundwork, but that doesn’t mean homeowners in other neighborhoods can’t chip in.
How Planting a Tree Can Benefit Your Home
You may not care much about the urban heat island effect in Dallas, especially if you don’t suffer from asthma or live in one of the neighborhoods with poor canopy coverage, but maybe you’ll find inspiration from the other benefits of planning a tree on your property.
The Arbor Day Foundation lists many benefits to having trees on your property. The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers says mature trees have a value $1,000-10,000, and a researcher at the University of Washington found that having large trees in yards along streets increases a home’s value from 3 percent to 15 percent. The USDA Forest Service claims that trees properly planted around buildings can reduce the need to use air conditioning by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating.
If planting a tree can help you save money and help the Dallas urban heat island effect, why not do it?
How to Plant Your Own Tree
When planting a tree on your own property, there are a lot of things to consider—location, species, time of planting, and more. You should consider each of these aspects thoroughly; you don’t want issues arising, like tree roots disrupting utility lines or trees dying because they’re in a spot that doesn’t get enough sunlight.
One of the best things to do is to discuss planting a tree with a botanist or arborist in the Dallas area, and perhaps even ask a specialist to make a trip out to your house and assess your planting conditions. They can also offer advice on how to plant a tree, as the process is different for balled trees, containerized trees, and bare root trees. Trees planted correctly will grow twice as fast and live twice as long, allowing you to gain your rate of return back on this project much quicker.
Don’t forget the main benefit of planting a tree is their canopy—not only to curb the urban heat island effect but also to benefit your home. Larger canopies will decrease the cost of air-conditioning and raise the value of your property. With this in mind, you don’t want to prune trees or cut main branches to stubs. You need to let the tree grow and cutting away branches might make you lose the financial gain trees can bring.
Get Your Neighborhood Involved
Planting one tree on your property isn’t going to do a lot to make Dallas cooler—the city needs 300,000 trees. But this offers a great opportunity for Dallas locals who like to be involved in their community, neighborhood, or homeowner association to take part in this effort.
Put together your own tree-planting volunteer project in Dallas. While Oak Cliff needs more trees, so do other Dallas neighborhoods, and that could be yours. Bring trees to your local school or neighborhood and watch how drivers will slow down to the benefit of children playing in the neighborhood, or how they help cool your neighborhood as you walk the dog in the evening.
The costs of trees and planting them can add up, but there are some Dallas programs in place to help. MOWmentum and the Restoration Fund both offer free trees to neighborhood groups interested in planting trees on medians, grassy parkways, parks, recreation centers, and public schools. Plus, they offer volunteers from the Urban Forest Advisory Committee to provide advice and insight on the best way to go about it.
For those interested in bringing more trees to their neighborhoods, begin by recruiting volunteers from your neighborhood and/or homeowner association or by posting calls for volunteers in local businesses or rec centers. To get financing from the Restoration Fund or MOWmentum, be sure to read their application guidelines thoroughly. For instance, MOWmentum will cover 50 percent of the costs (for up to $10,000) for trees, foliage, water meters, irrigation, and landscaping on planting projects.
While planting trees with other volunteers in your neighborhood or just planting a few on your own property may feel like a hassle, the benefits it can provide to you, your neighborhood, and the city of Dallas is well worth the effort.