North Richmond Urban Nature Loop Point of Interest #15
You are standing in front of another Las Deltas vacant house (we’ll tell more about this housing development in one of the next points, #17). Now have a look at the two large trees in front of the house. They are American Sycamore trees. If it’s a warm day, you will feel much cooler when standing in the shade they create. Too often, these trees are cut down, robbing communities of a physical link between past and future generations. We may want to think about how to protect these large trees.
Trees are a vital part of our communities and contribute significantly to our health, the beauty of our neighborhood, and the livability of our environment. Not only are they iconic landscape features, but they also reduce heat and air pollution, sequester carbon from the air, reduce the greenhouse effect and global warming, stabilize soils and reduce flooding and erosion, and provide a habitat for other plants and animals. Some trees in our neighborhoods may have existed before our cities were developed, and they are part of our cultural heritage.
Jeanine Strickland, a landscape architect working with The Watershed Project, emphasizes that urban forests – the collection of all trees in our living, working, and recreational areas – are essential ecosystems that provide many benefits. As an example, Strickland highlights the benefits provided by the few large trees on this block – she calculated that they can provide benefits worth $7,738 over the next 50 years, including storm runoff savings, air quality improvement savings, and energy savings.
How can we protect these trees? First, by getting to know them and seeing them as part of our community. Then, by keeping an eye on them and making sure there are no plans to cut them down. There are examples of legislative programs to protect old large trees, such as the Piedmont City Council Heritage Tree Program.