Managing Claremont’s urban forest: see video

All 26,164 of Claremont’s trees provide shade, create oxygen and, perhaps most importantly, instill city pride.

Which is why the City of Trees is creating a guiding document for how to care and manage those trees—the Urban Forest Management Plan. Claremonters gathered at city hall Monday evening to give feedback on what they would like to see in the plan.

See video of Claremont’s tallest trees

There are three main goals of the Urban Forest Management Plan—increase the tree canopy and benefits, preserve and maintain the existing tree canopy, and create partnerships with the community and increase education.

This was the fourth such meeting so far, and much has been done already in preparation for the plan. The city has increased the number of trees planted through grant funding, completed an urban forest sustainability management audit and a tree canopy inventory assessment.

That inventory has yielded some astonishing numbers: the trees in the city have a total value of nearly $88 million. Around 69 percent of the city’s trees are in good condition, compared to 14 percent in fair condition and 4 percent in poor condition.

While the amount of trees sounds like a lot, Claremont is poised to plant more. The city identified 3,520 “potential planting sites” across the city where new trees can be planted and hopefully thrive.

There have been some eco savings as well. Because of Claremont’s trees, more than 2.1 million kilowatt hours per year was conserved, equivalent to more than $468,000 in savings.

Those estimates, Mr. Roger explained, come from the Center for Urban Forest Research at UC Davis and center on shade and fallen leaves. Essentially, more shade from trees leads to less air conditioning usage in the summer, and sunlight coming through from fallen leaves in the winter can lead to less heater usage.

Air quality has improved, saving the city an estimated $125,604, according to city data, with those savings coming from trees taking in impurities and thus saving on anti-pollution initiatives.

The trees’ propensity for removing toxins has also lead to more than 4,954,925 pounds per year in carbon dioxide has been removed, the data shows. The removal of the CO2 happens through leaves in the trees absorbing it and releasing oxygen in its place, Mr. Roger said.

The city has been gathering input from residents of what their perspectives are on trees in the city. While 62 percent of Claremonters who participated in the survey feel the city has enough trees, 26 people support new trees in rights-of-way and parks, 24 support planting trees adjacent to their property when trees are removed, and 23 support increasing the city’s budget for tree planting and maintenance.

The Urban Forest Master Plan Survey is still up on the city’s website. Residents are welcome to take part.

The biggest concern among those already surveyed is roots damaging underground utilities and sidewalks, the city said. At Monday’s meeting, Mr. Roger proposed a new method to prevent damaged sidewalks—placing a metal plate underneath the concrete, which could keep roots from rising up.

More than a dozen people attended Monday night’s meeting, with a range from longtime residents to a man who just bought a house in Claremont. They were invited to give feedback on a number of different issues—from communication with residents about how to properly take care of city trees to enforcing mandatory tree planting.

Craig Peacock, who spoke for the first group, touched upon his personal experience as a former teacher. A large tree used to shade his portable classroom, he said. But when it was cut down, temperatures in his classroom routinely reached the triple digits.

“It took two years teaching in a hot box before I had any relief from that,” he said. “But it was because that tree was removed that myself and hundreds of students had to be in an unsafe, unhealthy environment.”

He advocated for better education on the importance of trees, especially for younger Claremonters. Tree care, he said, should be instilled as a city core value.

He also brought up the idea of utilizing the Claremont High School video production department to craft a public service announcement about the importance of trees. The winner would get a prize, he said, and the PSA could be shown before movies at the Laemmle Theater. 

The idea of mandatory tree planting, he said, seemed “too draconian” in its wording. Instead, he noted, the idea should be put forth as a city policy, which would be a lot more diplomatic.

“Again, if it becomes a core value for most people in the city, we don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “It all falls into place, at least in my opinion.”

Nancy Sappington of Plan-It Geo, a consulting group aiding the city in mapping their tree inventory said it was important for new residents to be aware that they are responsible for a city tree.

“It seems to me that that’s not a given,” she said. “When people buy property and move in, they don’t automatically know.”

Stuart Wood, the new executive director of Sustainable Claremont, spoke for the second group. His group talked about balancing the species of trees picked for planting, versus the diversity of the tree stock in terms of size and pest resilience.

What it comes down to, he said, was communication and education. The city’s not going to plant a big pine tree in a four-foot easement, he said, but rather a tree that’s better suited.

“We’re going to try to match what we have in our tree list with the area so that it’s an appropriate planting,” he said.

Ultimately, expanding the line of communication between residents and the city is key.

“This comes down to residents knowing they can contact community services and they can get answers to their questions,” Mr. Wood said.

In terms of paying for trees, Mr. Wood touched on the idea of an “Adopt-A-Tree” program, where residents could sponsor a tree, and the city would use the money for more plantings. The city would also continue to look for more grants from the county, state and beyond.

Meanwhile, the city is continuing its fight against a well-known and deadly tree pest—the Polyphagous Shot-Hole Borer.

The city council voted unanimously Tuesday night to appropriate $190,000 from the city’s emergency reserves to combat the borer in 1,320 Sycamore and American elm trees that have been identified as vulnerable. Since 2017, when the borer first became known, approximately 2,100 trees have been treated in Claremont.

The chemical used to kill the borer is administered by “trunk injection,” Mr. Roger said on Tuesday—a small hole is drilled into the tree, the chemical is put into the hole, and the tree absorbs the chemical and eliminates the borer. 

The Urban Forest Management Plan will be sent off to the commissions for scrutiny in June and July, Mr. Roger said, with the city council receiving the plan for approval by the end of the year.

—Matthew Bramlett


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