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Lakewood Makes Plans For Tree-Filled Future

Lakewood councilmen Tristan Rader and Tom Bullock, and Arborist Chris Price [David C. Barnett / ideastream]

Next month, Lakewood City Council will consider legislation to create an advisory group dedicated to protecting the city’s tree canopy. The idea actually originated seven years ago, when the western edge of Hurricane Sandy touched the Northeast Ohio lakeshore and downed a number of trees.

For over four decades, Lakewood has won a "Tree City USA" designation from the Arbor Day Foundation, for the stewardship of the urban canopy. The city is looking to reinforce that status by establishing a group of citizen volunteers who will staff a Tree Advisory and Education Board charged with promoting more growth, especially on private property. 

Standing on a relatively treeless city street, Lakewood Councilman Tom Bullock said nurturing tree growth is a no brainer.

“They raise property values, they beautify your neighborhood, they clean the air, they reduce storm water, and they reduce your electricity bill when you have hot summer days like this one,” he said.

Bullock added that the city has learned from past mistakes, like planting hundreds of trees a century ago that are all starting to age out at the same time. A new goal is to stagger new plantings and to raise Lakewood's stock of 13,000 trees by 5 percent. 

The city's Chief Arborist Chris Price noted that may not sound like a lot, but the small increase has big cost benefits.

"If the city were to increase its tree canopy by 5 percent, that equates to $14 million in storm water investment money saved,” he said. “Reduction of two holding tanks of large capacity for storm water events."

Only about a quarter of the state’s cities have an arborist on staff, Price said. And he doesn’t take that distinction lightly.

And it can be easy to overlook the importance of trees in an urban setting, he added

“We all love a thousand-acre, million-acre tracts of forest,” he said. “Those are very important to the survival of this planet. But, on an urban -forest level, in a city like Lakewood, that’s our greenspace, that’s our national forest --- the canopy cover, the number of trees that we have, and the many benefits."

Tristan Rader chairs Lakewood Council’s Public Works Committee and he thinks his city has a reputation to live up to.

“We are Lakewood for a reason,” he said. “'Wood’ is in our name and we have to look out for our tree canopy.  And our residents who want to be involved in this should absolutely have a seat at the table."

David C. Barnett was a senior arts & culture reporter for Ideastream Public Media. He retired in October 2022.