eaolyNews, Saturday, October 1997 -- - - -
1 Conference focuses on trees
Recently, I attended a confer-
ence in Atlanta called "Cities by
Nature's Design", part of the eighth
National Urban Forest Conference.
There were more than 1,000 urban
foresters, business people, planners,
government leaders and others in
The conference was international,
with participants from South Africa,
Chile, Haiti, the Virgin Islands and
the United States. Gary Moll said
that "the conference Is designed to
address the challenges of sustainable
cities, to explore their philosophical
underpinnings, and to identify
actions to achieve that goal.'"
There were many paper presen-
tations at the conference from
social, environmental, economical,
to public policies. However, the
focus of the conference as how
trees enhanced and played a major
role in cities across the United
-States and the world.
A study was cited which said a
city should have at least 40 percent
tree cover to ensure its environmen-
tal, economic and social health.
Most cities in America fall short of
the 40 percent tree cover. A Wash-
ington-based American Forests
study released figures saying
Atlanta only has 27 percent, Mil-
waukee 18 percent, Baltimore 31
percent and Austin, Texas, 34 per-
cent tree cover.
"We are urging cities to aim for
an overall tree canopy coverage of
40 percent," Deboran Gangloff,
American Forests executive director
said during the conference.
This message was driven home
when Moll said trees helped rid of
air pollution, control storm water
runoff and conserve energy. Trees
further beautify city landscapes and
are home for wildlife.
The studies presented at the
Atlanta meetings "estimates the
nation's urban forests are worth at
least 400 billion in terms of storm
water management alone."
In Atlanta, the study mentioned
tree cover value about $883 million
for storm water control. Milwau-
kee's was estimated at $305 mil-
lion, Baltimore, $340 million, and
Austin, S1.4 million.
Studies have also stated that
increasing tree canopy to 40 percent
in those cities storm water benefits
would increase by estimated of
$220 million in Milwaukee, $102
million in Baltimore, $358 million
in Atlanta and $197 million in
Austin. In terms of air quality, the
report said that the existing tree
cover and vegetation of those cities
worth about $11 million in Balti-
more, $15 million In Atlanta, $8
million in Milwaukee and about
$31 million in Austin.
What this is saying that trees in
cities can save the government mil-
lions of dollars.
There were many things I got
from the conference, but one thing
that stuck in my mind was the
importance of planning. In cities and
urban areas across the nation, plan-
ners take a hard look at where to
plant and where to build. We in the
Virgin Islands have no plan at alL
You see, I bowed my head down
with shame when planning kept
coming up in the meetings at
Sometimes one gets frustrated
with the Virgin Islands government
when you try to do the right thing
for the environment. Believe me,
the politics and all the lies told to
the people of these islands will
surely destroy our economic base in
the world economy.
Nonetheless, the highlight of the
conference was the tours. I took the
tour "Urban Places/Public Spaces."
Piedmont Park within the city of
Atlanta is more than 100 years old
with a hundred-plus acres. The park
is diverse- from botanical garden,
base ball fields and hiking trials in
the forest to swimming areas.
The park brings in million of dol-
las to Atlanta's economy. The next
stop was Oakland cemetery which is
used as a park. This 80 acres ceme-
tery park is very historical and
brings in million of dollars to
Atlanta city. Millions of people
every year attend the cemetery to see
such famous people's pgrave as the
person who wrote the book "Gone
with the Wind." Grave stones that go
back to the 16th, 17th, and down to
the 2thh centuries.
Also, slaves %nd great black
leaders were buried in the cemetery
which was kind of interesting to me
because in those days graves were
separated between black and white.
Even though blacks were buried in
this cemetery, they were still sepa-
rated on one side of the cemetery.
Today, some states still practice
white and black graveyards.
But what I gathered from this
experience how the cemetery park
is used as a historic tourist attrac-
tion as well as for local people to
learn about the history of Atlanta.
I think we can do the same with
our cemeteries to help attract people
to our shores. The last stop was the
new Centennial Olympic Park with-
in the city of Atlanta where the
1996 Olympic Games were held.
I ran out of space to talk about
this new park, but I long for the day
when this government will get seri-
ous by making planting trees as an
important part of our economic
Olasee Davis who has a master
of science degree In range manage-
ment and forestry ecology, is a St
Croix ecologist, activist and writer.