By Alan Hirsch, the Davis Lorax
Tuesday night at the City Council meeting is a celebration. After hundreds of hours of volunteer time by members of Tree and other city commissions, the Urban Forest Master Plan (UFMP) is set to be approved by City Council.
This is a breakthrough after over a decade of inaction/gridlock/resource starvation of the city tree program, which has struggled just to do basic pruning and keep over 25,000 street and park trees safe. A period during which we had a near financial failure of Tree Davis. We are just now recovering from the cutbacks following the great recession of 2008.
The result of this lost decade is clear. Davis has an aging canopy in need of renewal, a decades-old tree species selection list and lack of a codified “best practices” planting standards, and a near total lack of enforcement of tree protection ordinance — except against homeowners. Even as we have some of the best tree scientists in the world at UCD and at Tree Davis, city staff was so stretched it did not time to engage these resources. The “strategic plan” was reduced to just ad hoc tree planting.
But now that we have a $250,000 strategic Urban Forestry MASTER Plan
But while the UFMP Plan is a great blueprint, it has so many “to do” it’s not clear where to start. This lack of focus has dogged the implementation of the City of Woodland own $350,000 UFMP it approved 3 years ago. I am told they have hardly scratched the surface. I confirmed this when I visited the Woodland’s Sustainability Advisory Committee this week: they said their plan has largely sat on the shelf. Not just a waste of money but Sad.
So Tuesday Night, the Davis Council need to not just to OK the UFMP document, but also ask staff to come up with a prioritized implementation plan – one out at least 5 year or more of due dates to which the department’s performance can be measured against.
Add to the UFMP document a requirement the department to prepare an as annual “state of the urban forest” report to report – change in shade canopy cover, planting and removals, and progress implementing the UFMP recommendations.
I also have a third suggestion: the implementation plan begins by prioritizing the most visible tree in our community – the Downtown trees.
The recently passed Downtown Specific Plan needs a tree component added to its building code. and we need a tree inventory and planting plan. Seeing as the city council has already allocated $1.2 Million in grant funding to Downtown Davis Business Association (DDBA) for undetermined “landscaping:” we have funds to make this start almost immediately.
Below is my presentation to council on tree issue seen in our Downtown. It shows we have an opportunity to make a dramatic difference.