Growing up in Oakland, California — and without a TV in the house as a kid — I spent a lot of time climbing trees, often the beautiful Coast Live Oaks that are native to that region and that populated my family’s backyard. Beyond my neighborhood, my parents often took me out to appreciate the Redwood forests that blanket the coast and mountains, and I have so many memories of hiking adventures in the Sierra Nevada range, including wandering in the groves of the Giant Sequoias.
I still love trees just as much as I ever did, and I am always disheartened when I see impressive, older trees come down from natural causes, poor maintenance, or, sometimes, a lack of appreciation for the value of trees or unfounded fears about the risk of trees.
Because I have always wanted to increase our county’s focus on protecting trees, I wrote a letter to County Executive Ike Leggett in 2013, asking for his support for a campaign to plant 100,000 new trees in Montgomery County.
My discussion with the executive and his team lead to legislation I introduced that called for Department of Environmental Protection to develop a campaign to work with residents and civic organizations to plant more trees on private property and better manage our planting program on public property. This legislation passed the Council in 2014 as part of the Office of Environmental Sustainability.
When County Executive Leggett and I announced the 100,000 Trees initiative in the spring of 2014, the new campaign to grow Montgomery County’s tree canopy took an important first step. Our goal is to continually plant new trees in Montgomery County, ensuring that the tree canopy will not only be preserved, but strengthened in the coming years. DEP is off to a great start, using funds from the Tree Canopy Law, which includes a planting provision that I requested that requires property owners who are redeveloping property and impact existing trees to plant new trees or pay into a tree canopy planting fund.
This year, the campaign moved into a whole new phase: Tree Montgomery, which will be the enduring name for the initiative. I was pleased to join the County Executive to launch Tree Montgomery.
The local benefits of trees like these are enormous. Besides the obvious aesthetic appeal and the increased privacy, shade trees purify our water, keep communities cooler in the summer, and help to mitigate the effects of storms by cutting wind and soaking up rain water.
Here is where residents come in: If you are interested in requesting a tree in your area, head over to treemontgomery.org and fill out the posted form, and ask your friends and neighbors to do the same. Shade trees require lots of space, so we are especially focused on open spaces near parking lots, single-family homes, and multi-family communities. Don’t miss out.