Tacoma residents gathered at Tollefson Plaza in downtown on April 2 to get tree questions answered by arborists, learn about efforts to plant more trees in the city and even try their hand at some chalk art.
The event marked the kickoff of the Urban Forest Project. The purpose of the project is to raise awareness of the importance of trees in the city, encourage citizens to pause and be stimulated and provoked by the artwork and to celebrate Tacoma’s vibrant creative community.
One component of the project is placing 80 tree-themed banners on light poles around downtown in April and May. These are designed by local artists and students and are intended to celebrate Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (April 13 in Washington state). The banners will create a forest of natural images amid the concrete and steel of the urban landscape. After two months they will be recycled into unique bags. Proceeds will go toward planting and maintaining trees across the city.
Ramie Pierce serves as the urban forester for the city government. Her primary duty is helping Tacoma meet its goal of expanding city’s tree canopy by 30 percent by 2030. The U.S. Forest Service calculated the city’s tree canopy at 12.9 percent in 2001.
“This is a way to raise awareness of trees in the urban environment,” Pierce said as she drew on the pavement with chalk. She and others are conducting outreach to the public about long-term plans to plant more trees. Some will be planted on city property, she noted. “It will be a multi-pronged approach.”
Metro Parks Commissioner Krystal Kyer was on hand at the project kickoff to represent the agency, which owns much of the open space in Tacoma. This year Metro Parks created a Natural Resources Division, which will focus on improvements at Titlow Park and Swan Creek Park to start.
Recently Metro Parks has removed more trees than it has planted, Kyer noted. She said trees that are removed pose some sort of problem, such as roots that are causing sidewalks to buckle or they are of a species not native to this region.
Richard Madison, volunteer coordinator for Metro Parks, noted the biggest event of the year for those wishing to improve parks is Parks Appreciation Day, scheduled for April 16. Volunteers will plant 450 trees and native plants in McKinley Park that day, he noted.