Ky. Voices: Lexington growing its urban forest

Tim R. Queary is the urban forester for Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.
Tim R. Queary is the urban forester for Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

A recent op-ed decried the infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer, in particular, and the condition of Lexington's tree population, in general. While the writer correctly pointed out the threats to our urban forest, there is work taking place behind the scenes to protect and enhance our community.

Make no mistake, there are most certainly challenges associated with managing trees in an urban environment. Insects and diseases are big problems, but the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of our citizens directly affect the quality and quantity of our urban forest.

Ash trees make up approximately nine percent of street trees in Lexington, about 5,000. All untreated ash trees could be lost to this insect. Several years ago, the city's urban forestry staff began distributing information, developed by the University of Kentucky, to tree owners on the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). The city then developed and began distributing door-hangers to residents with ash trees. Additionally, information on the EAB has been available from state and federal agencies.

Using grants and other funding sources, we've been actively treating our most significant ash trees in city parks for the past three years. Selected ash trees in medians at several locations have also been treated by city arborists. Information on the EAB can be found at www.lexingtonky.gov/eab.

The urban forestry program is currently working on several projects that will help our community build a healthy and diverse urban forest. Recently the city commissioned an urban tree canopy analysis for the Urban Services Area of Fayette County. This assessment, once completed, will calculate the percentage of tree canopy and the environmental benefits that our community's trees provide us.

This information will also help produce a planting plan for areas that need more tree canopy and will show how these environmental benefits can increase over time by planting more trees.

A comprehensive inventory of street trees is currently under way in our neighborhoods with the assistance of citizen volunteers. This information will be very valuable to help manage the pests, diseases and other health threats to our urban forest.

Volunteers are welcome to participate in this important project by visiting our website at: www.lexingtonky.gov/forestry.

This website is also where homeowners can find information on which trees to plant, as well as proper tree care. You can even submit a question about trees at this website.

Citizens can also become involved with our urban forest program by participating in Lexington Tree Board meetings. These meetings are free, open to the public and are listed on the city's monthly event calendar.

We'd like to thank the thousands of volunteers and our sponsors who, for the past 15 years, have helped plant trees at our annual Reforest the Bluegrass event. More than 100,000 tree seedlings have been planted as we progressively restore the long-lost benefits of streamside forests.

Lexington was recently recognized as a Tree City USA community for the 25th consecutive year by the National Arbor Day Foundation thanks, in part, to the many citizens who help make Lexington a greener community.

Help us improve our urban forests by becoming more educated about trees and their benefits, properly maintaining the trees we already have and participating in one of several opportunities to plant more trees. Future generations will thank you.

At issue: June 24 commentary by Dave Cooper, "Lexington needs to get serious about saving trees"

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