Durham very much likes being a city known as having a large canopy of trees. Trees, in fact, cover about 40 percent of the city’s 108 square miles, and the city has been recognized on the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree City USA list for over 30 years. And that’s due to a long-standing priority placed on having that canopy.
But now the Durham City Council has heard of a coming crisis, the deaths of old trees, perhaps as many as 650 large trees a year over the next 20 years, plus some other trees lost to storms or accidents. Replacing the trees, particularly the larger ones, can be expensive, and Durham is a growing urban area with more construction and vehicle traffic these days.
Still, it’s good that city council members seem fully supportive of replenishing the trees after the city’s Environmental Affairs Board sounded alarms about their loss.
As it stands, the city will have to look at providing money to replace trees and also can go to environmental groups that pride themselves on being in the noble business of protecting trees. The city is going to need 1,680 trees of varying sizes planted each year to maintain that 40 percent canopy.
City officials seem gung-ho, but they’ll need to ensure that the planting of trees covers, so to speak, the entire city, including lower-income areas.
For all of its growth, and new achievements such as the American Tobacco Campus and the popular downtown performance venues, Durham must maintain the proud traditions that have helped to define it and enrich it for its residents. Maintaining that canopy of trees should be near the top of that list. Let’s hope the council backs its enthusiasm with financial support.