The importance of trees in a city

Trees have a tough life in cities. They face heavy stress from storms, insects, air pollution, road salt, low-quality soil and damage from equipment or other vehicles.

The benefits of a healthy tree population are many:

Visual appeal

Few things can compare with the aesthetic impact and seasonal interest that trees offer the urban setting. They provide huge visual appeal to any area and can significantly enhance the design of a streetscape.

Air quality

For every 10% increase in urban tree canopy, ozone is reduced by 3-7%. Trees are also proven to remove carbon from the air, getting absorbed and stored as cellulose in their trunks, branches, and leaves (a process known as sequestration). Research has also shown a 60% reduction in particulates from car exhaust fumes on streets lined with trees.

Health and well-being

Trees have also been proven to have a positive impact on skin cancer, asthma, hypertension, and other stress related illness by filtering out polluted air, reducing smog formation, providing shade from solar radiation, and providing an attractive, calming setting for recreation. Trees also form an effective sound absorbing barrier to help reduce unwanted urban noise pollution.

Cost savings

For every $1 spent on trees, a return of $2.70 in benefits is received; according to the United States Forest Service.

Managing stormwater

For every 5% of tree cover in a community, stormwater runoff is reduced by 2%. Trees prevent stormwater runoff from reaching water courses with harmful chemicals collected from roads and sidewalks.

Property values

Independent studies have shown a consistent 5-15% increase in property values on tree lined streets, proving that trees increase commercial and residential real estate values.

Cooling effects

Trees reduce temperatures by shade and transpiring water. This helps reduce air conditioning bills and energy use. Studies have even proven that one mature tree can produce the same cooling effect as 10 room-sized air conditioners. This becomes an effective tool in reducing urban heat islands and hot spots in cities.

Adverse wind speed

Buildings increase wind speed as wind is forced to travel further around them. Trees significantly reduce wind speed up to a distance of 10 times their height.

The City of Marshall is doing its part. Recently the city received an urban reforestation grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that provided a variety of one hundred twenty trees (120) and all were planted by our Parks Department staff. In addition, the grant included watering bags that allows the trees to be watered over a period of time allowing water to penetrate the root system and decreasing runoff.

According to Preston Stensrud, Parks Supervisor for the city, the variety of trees planted is critical for the longevity of trees, as diversity of trees means the less vulnerable trees will be to invasive species, climate change, or severe weather.

Currently, Ash, Maple and Spruce are the three most populated trees in our city. 

The City Council this spring adopted a tree policy to help residents choose tree species and provide guidance on proper placement of trees on, and adjacent to, the public right of way and easements. This policy is a result of the City Council revising an ordinance last year to allow tree planting in boulevards as prior ordinance language did not allow this.

Trees in our city have immense value and benefits. If you would like help in choosing tree species or how best to plant, please contact Parks Superintendent Preston Stensrud at 507-401-6841.

— Sharon Hanson is the city

administrator for the City of Marshall