On a cool, sunny Saturday morning, 30 volunteers and city staff fanned out along North King Charles Road and adjacent streets to plant 63 oaks, redbuds and other trees to replenish an area hit hard by tornadoes five years earlier – and beef up the City of Oaks’ tree canopy.
The City of Raleigh’s NeighborWoods program launched its 13th annual tree planting season in the neighborhood east of downtown, and that also means residents can request a free tree to put in the right-of-way in front of their homes – so long as they commit to planting, watering and mulching the tree for the next two years. The city takes care of pruning and other maintenance.
“It’s a win-win situation for the city and the homeowner at the same time,” said Doug White, the city’s tree planting coordinator.
Trees cool the streets and sidewalks, which helps them last longer. They hold together the soil, which helps limit erosion and stormwater runoff. The trees also provide shade for homes, which lowers air conditioning costs, and add character, which raises home values.
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Donations pay for the trees, so there’s no tax money involved. City staff makes sure the trees planted don’t affect underground or overhead utilities, and offers a diverse number of species so that blight or other threats to trees are less devastating. City officials say roughly three out of four of the 16,000 trees planted through the program are alive today.
White said storm damage and development are two of the biggest reasons the city targets areas for NeighborWoods events. The neighborhoods that include North King Charles Road also had sections where few trees had been planted along streets.
Five years earlier, tornadoes touched down in Raleigh’s center and cut a path through eastern neighborhoods. Dozens of trees came down or had their tops sheered off.
Longtime resident Barbara Walker remembers scanning the neighborhood after the tornadoes came through. The change was stunning with so much tree cover gone.
“I was amazed at what I saw,” she said. “It truly changed the complexion of the neighborhood.”
Volunteers on Saturday planted two redbuds and a pistache in front of her home.
From the outset, the city offered trees to replace those lost in the storm, but many homeowners were reluctant after having to remove those that had crashed onto their homes or vehicles. Five years later, homeowners contacted the city in large enough numbers that officials realized the neighborhood was a great spot for their annual tree planting kickoff.
“As time passes, people start feeling better about trees again,” said Zach Manor, the city’s urban forester.
Saturday’s volunteers came from pharmaceutical company PPD’s Morrisville offices.
“It’s a great way to be with colleagues old and new, and help a community look prettier after a tornado,” said Luann Kublin, a PPD employee, as she used the handle of a shovel to tamp down the earth around a newly-planted young tree. She had just learned a new skill.
The planting season lasts until March. To request a tree, email the city at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 919-996-4865.
For more information, go to bit.ly/2eaJwTr.