If you’ve ever seen any of the idealistic city plans for major metropolises in 20 or 30 years, there’s nearly always several striking features of the presentation that you can’t miss. First, there will be tons of windows, not only because they look shiny and cool in the plan but because it opens up the city dwellers to the outside and of course, allows for the use of solar power. Second, they’ll be some kind of prominent public transportation display, such as an above ground high-speed rail reminiscent of the Simpson’s “Monorail.” Last and not least, they’ll be trees and bushes – tons of them. They’ll be hanging from balconies (it will be in style, they promise), climbing up walls, and shading the citizens on the streets from the solar rays which are heating their homes.
So it was not surprising that Madison is looking to invest in some shrubbery itself. Last week the City Council held a meeting on “Preserving and Enhancing the Urban Forest.” Ald. Marsha Rummel headed the idea, and in an email response to some questions I had on the matter, explained how the city could hug trees enough to keep them from going away.
Currently city policies do not include fines for contractors who ruin/damage trees. Currently the ‘specs’ for requests for proposals and subsequent contracts for street work don’t highlight the policies we do have in place for trees. The city’s Forestry section has created a MOU/memorandum of understanding to make tree care more obvious. And when property owners are noticed about public hearings at the Board of Public Works for proposed street work, the risk to trees is not sufficiently emphasized as a possible outcome. Over the years, city forestry has implemented a tree inventory survey to identify and describe trees all over the city. It is not complete yet but when it is, the location of all terrace trees will be findable on GIS, just like underground utilities. this should help improve planning for street recons.
The anguish neighbors felt this summer encouraged me to request that Engineering and Parks to review our practices. As mentioned above, the city has improved practices over the years. Sidwalk ‘sawing’ is a recent innovation, a way to level sidewalks by shaving them instead of digging out and replacing but there is still room to improve. In Milw, the city forester visits every construction site to insure that contractors are taking care when sanitary laterals are placed near trees. It’s not just the curb/sidewalk work but the utility connections to each property that result in excavation potentially on three sides of a terrace tree that put trees at risk. Milwaukee also charges a LOT of money for trees that are damaged when not predicted to be at risk.
Sounds like a good idea. But as Ryan Masse would be sure to tell you, we can’t have a serious talk about urban forestry without including roof gardens in the discussion. I for one would like to see a roof garden on top of the Capitol. Lady Wisconsin can be standing in the middle of it, perhaps with a hoe in hand.