By Phoebe Banks
SYRACUSE — Trees are important part of any community and Syracuse is no exception. The importance of trees and how they benefit a community was presented Monday, Sept. 20, at the Syracuse Community Center.
During the past year and a half, the Syracuse Tree Board has been working with the St. Joseph River Basin Commission, ReLeaf Michigan, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Indiana Urban Forestry Commission on a grant that was received to study trees and storm water runoff in the St. Joseph River Basin.
Syracuse is one of six communities in the St. Joseph River Basin area participating in this grant. The findings of the tree assessment were presented at the meeting.
As part of the grant, the tree board had two areas studied in the community. First, was overall tree health and second was a tree planting guide. The public presentation discussed the results.
There were three presenters — Aren Flint of Davey Resource Group Inc., Marvin Pettway of ReLeaf Michigan, and Matt Meersman, director of the St. Joseph River Basin Commission.
The first presenter was Meersman. He explained trees are important as they provide value.
“Syracuse is at the top of the basin,” he said. “The value of trees is an important part of the process of our infrastructure.”
He said trees can increase property value, among other important benefits. For instance, 100 mature trees catch 200,000 gallons of rainwater per year.
Launched in 2010 to protect and restore the Great Lakes, one of the major focuses of the study was reducing pollution and nutrient runoff to the watershed.
Flint presented the key findings of the tree assessment for Syracuse.
The tree canopy of Syracuse is estimated to cover 290 acres and account for 20 percent of the town’s total land cover, less than similar communities within the Great Lakes region. Except for the city center, which exhibits high concentration of impervious surface, tree canopy coverage appears well spread throughout Syracuse. Improving canopy coverage near areas with large amounts of impervious surface will help mitigate stormwater runoff, a critical need for communities in such close proximity to large bodies of water. Residential areas in the northeast corner of Syracuse have high concentrations of high and very high priority planting areas.
Syracuse selected a customized priority planting analysis that investigated potential areas for new plantings within public or private land. Prioritization of Syracuse’s public spaces will allow the city to maximize its return on planting investments by placing new trees in areas that will deliver the greatest impacts in terms of ecosystem and community benefits. The analysis of privately-held land helps planners of privately funded and public-private partnerships target the right areas to maximize return on its community planting investment.
The analysis reveals South Huntington Street as a priority public area and residential areas in the northeast part of Syracuse, near Long Drive, as a priority area on private land.
Pettway explained how his organization can help plant trees. He has 45 years of experience in trees.
“We offer support on how to plant trees, how the volunteer process works and where to plant them,” he noted, adding parks work well if they are in the right place, depending on the type of the trees.
“I think it was a good presentation about trees in Syracuse, and it gives the tree board some ideas on what to work on and where to move forward. While Syracuse didn’t receive any money as part of the grant, we will receive 50 trees in the spring,” said Chad Jonsson.
For more information, visit treebenefits.org or gis.davey.com/storymap/StJosephRiverWatershed.