What’s Going on with the Phoenix Tree and Shade Master Plan?

By: Taz Loomans

“Phoenix’s urban forest has the potential to be one of the city’s greatest assets and the foundation for a healthier, more livable and prosperous Phoenix. If the tree canopy coverage could be increased to an average of twenty-five percent, the urban forest can save the city hundreds of millions of dollars (Funders’ Network for Livable Communities). However, Phoenix’s urban forest must be viewed as a critical component of the city’s infrastructure and considered at all stages of planning and development. The urban forest is a solution multiplier that can help Phoenix achieve many of its goals, policies and initiatives. The Tree and Shade Master Plan provides a framework and action steps to achieving these goals.” – Phoenix Tree and Shade Master Plan

We love the Phoenix Tree and Shade Master Plan here are Firefly. Check out the important document with all the details here. The plan was adopted by the Phoenix City Council in 2010 and proposes to increase the tree canopy coverage to 25% from the current 11-13% vegetative cover.

We were wondering how the implementation of the plan is coming along so we talked with one of the principal authors of Master Plan, Richard Adkins. Richard is the Forestry Supervisor at the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department. Below is our interview with Richard:

Firefly: What is the status of the Tree and Shade Master Plan?  What phase is it in?

Richard Adkins: There really is no “phase” of the plan, but rather an on-going task towards a sustainable urban forest.  We do have the three goals, on which we are making progress.  The synergy of the parts is starting to show benefits.

Goal 1 is Raise Awareness – We have basically completed recommendations 1, 2, and 3 as listed in the plan. [Recommendation 1 is to Create Partnerships; recommendation 2 is to Provide Training and Education; recommendation 3 is to Establish Demonstration Projects.]

Goal 2 is Preserve, Protect, and Increase – We have basically completed recommendations 2 and 3. [Recommendation 2 is to Conduct a Tree Inventory; recommendation 3 is to Develop and Adopt Best Management Practices.]

Goal 3 is Sustainable, Maintainable Infrastructure – We have completed recommendation 3 and part of 4. [Recommendation 3 is to Further develop a green waste program, and look for ways to improve efficiencies and recommendation 4 is to Research and complete shade demonstration projects.]

Firefly: What are some of the things that have already been accomplished with the Tree and Shade Master Plan?

Richard Adkins: Some of the things we’ve already accomplished are:

– we have created an inventory and assessment of all city maintained trees

– we are launching a web application for citizens to use showing the benefits of trees (soon to be released)

– we have increased staff training, including planting and pruning standards and sustainable landscape management techniques

– we have established partnerships with AZ Landscape Contractor’s Association, Watershed Management Group, Keep Phoenix Beautiful, the AZ Community Tree Council and the Valley Permaculture Alliance

– we have started a Citizen Forester program and developed a volunteer checklist manual

– we are currently working on three canopy studies (one with three other regional cities, one by the department, and one with U of A and ASU

– we have put on regional and local workshops on the importance of the urban forest, tree inventories, and green infrastructure, increasing the percentage of green organic diversion from the waste stream

– we have made sure that green infrastructure is a planning component of Reinvent Phoenix

Firefly: What is the status of the tree inventory currently?

Richard Adkins: The initial data gathering is basically completed, management is on-going. The numbers of trees and environmental benefit values being calculated.  Click here for updated information on the tree inventory.

Firefly: What are some of the challenges in implementing the Tree and Shade Master Plan?

Richard Adkins: Budget. And the general lack of understanding of the benefits of trees and vegetation and the subsequent incorporating of trees as value to site plans and providing adequate soil volume space.  Codes and ordinances also pose a challenge.

Firefly: What are next steps for the Tree and Shade Master Plan?

Richard Adkins: Next steps are to:

– update the progress

– continue to manage the urban forest resource

– locate funding sources for maintenance and planting activities

– continue to address the importance of code and ordinance updates/changes

– complete messaging on value of the urban forest for the public, officials, and the development community

– continue to develop relationships with other municipalities in order to provide a united force.

Firefly: What are some things the community can do to help?

Richard Adkins: The community can help by:

– volunteering at planting and clean-up activities

– supporting our partnering groups

– learning more about the benefits of trees and shade and how it will support a sustainable lifestyle in the desert southwest

– learn more about proper tree/plant care and demand private contractors to perform accordingly

Firefly: Thanks for the update Richard!

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