Louisville Magazine

AUG 2013

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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Petry, the company's co-owner, dumps an armful of branches in the truck, greets me and leads me through a gate to Hardy's back yard. Wearing sunglasses, a hard hat and a CamelBak-looking hydration pack over his neon-orange T-shirt, Petry tells me he's just pruned the lilac and Japanese pagoda trees to allow the fg trees and other landscaping to soak up more sunlight. (Plenty of shade remains, encouraging mosquitoes to feast on my ankles.) Hardy steps outside to thank the guys and tell them she's headed out. When I explain why I — wearing sandals instead of hiking boots, and holding a pen and paper instead of a chain saw — am among the crew, she proudly says, "Well, I'm one of the tree advocates around here," as though her kelly-green T-shirt, stamped with a Cherokee Triangle logo and the words "Plant a Tree for Me," doesn't reveal her position. "It amazes me when a big, old tree comes down and collecting tree map data for downtown streets. Tough initial feld-checking is fnished, Piuma says that a number of trees were cut down for the Ohio River Bridges Project and that many others were taken down for unknown reasons, so an update is needed. Te studio is working with the tech company Forest Giant to develop an app to make the process easier. "I think it's going to answer a lot of questions," says Patrick Smith, a certifed planner and digital mapmaker working with the studio. He sits at a long table in the studio's main room, his laptop open to the map work that he and his colleagues are close to completing. Teir work answers several questions: Where are the trees? What species do we have? What are their sizes? How is their health? All of this, Smith says, will help the city develop a heat-management plan. "Te sorts of analyses that Brian Stone Commercial areas with good tree coverage attract more customers who stay longer and spend more money, and apartments with trees have fewer tenant turnovers. nobody replaces it!" she says. "You know, downtown is where we need them." Hardy is stating the obvious. A Google Maps aerial view has downtown and pieces of Phoenix Hill and west Louisville looking almost solidly gray. In August 2010, the National Weather Service's local ofce took a satellite image of the city's tree cover and superimposed temperatures over it, showing higher temps in areas with the least amount of vegetation. Where homeowners tend to have the disposable income to properly plant and care for trees, we see cooler temperatures. Like other community resources, healthy trees tend to grow wherever the dollar lies. According to the Arbor Day Foundation's website, landscaping, especially with mature trees, can add up to 20 percent more value to a property. Commercial areas with good tree coverage attract more customers who stay longer and spend more money, and apartments with trees have fewer tenant turnovers. Trees beget higher home values and business sales, which beget wealth, which begets trees. Stone strongly advocates that our (and every) city have a heat-management plan, which requires taking inventory of current tree stock. Te folks at the Urban Design Studio, which has been engaged with the city through Vision Louisville, Metro Parks and the Tree Advisory Commission, have been 46 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.13 has done and that students at U of L have done, these have been sort of macro level, like thinking about the whole enchilada at one time," Smith says. "What we're trying to do is fner-grained: get real information about where trees are and what their sizes are." Maria Koetter, the director of the Ofce of Sustainability, which Mayor Fischer created last year, says that a tree-canopy assessment of the entire county is vital in addressing urban heat because the problem isn't just downtown. Does this mean we have to wait for the study results before planting? "I wouldn't go out tomorrow and plant 10,000 trees," says Piuma, "but at the same time, every tree you add is going to beneft the community. It would be better when you have a strategic plan for large-scale planting, but I would hate for people to be like, 'We can't plant until this is done.'" Other eforts are beginning to sprout. Baby trees — still in diapers, or rather, those green irrigation bags at the base of their tiny trunks — are developing roots downtown. Te bags are integral to the health of trees, Petry says, because the frst year requires the most water. Tese saplings come from the business- and community-run Louisville Downtown Management District, which put 166 in the ground in December as part of a joint efort with the Downtown Development Corp. and with the help of a grant from the Metropolitan Sewer District. Wesley Sydnor, the senior technical services engineer at MSD, says that back in 2009, the quasi-governmental utility added an urban reforestation program with a goal of planting 1,000 trees per year for 14 years through partnerships, grants and incentives. Grant-receivers, including the Downtown Management District, U of L and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, have planted more than 3,000 trees since the program started. In addition to the cooling, public health and aesthetic benefts of trees, Sydnor says, "Tere are also large stormwater benefts, especially in downtown, where we have the most combined sewage overfows, or CSOs." He says the district's overall cost to reduce the city's overfows is $850 million. (According to Walkable City's Speck, larger urban areas such as New York have CSO budgets in the billions.) "Trees are a small part of that, but a valuable part of that," Sydnor says. Planting is one thing, but what's the use if the trees aren't properly maintained. Ken Herndon, director of operations and communications for the Downtown Management District, says DMD has promised to maintain the trees that line the district's city rights-of-way for seven years, watering and pruning under the guidance of the Metro Arborist Mark White. With some of the older trees downtown, you'll see buckling bricks at tree wells that are clearly inadequate to handle their root systems. Herndon says that, while the recent plantings have been in larger, fve-by-fve-foot tree wells, adding wells or expanding old ones depends on certain factors, such as underground utility lines. A downtown-wide study, he says, would help planners avoid cutting into something underneath the sidewalk. It's also important to plant the right types of tree. City structures (sidewalks, power lines) can dictate which tree species should go where. Resistance to pests and disease is another factor. Te emerald ash borer is making its way through Louisville and will kill a sixth of the already sparse tree coverage if we ignore the invasion. Insecticide treatments exist but must be repeated every two years, so tree owners — whether public or private — must weigh the costs and benefts of maintaining or replacing. B ut tree ownership and responsibility gets confusing, even to Louisville native Chris O'Bryan, who co-owns Limbwalker with Petry. Te 37-year-old graduated from the University of Kentucky and has a master of forest resources degree from Clemson University in South Carolina. He's been a certifed arborist for more than a decade and is a fve-time Kentucky treeContinued on page 51

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