Interest in Tampa's urban forest is growing
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10/06/11 Josh Holton
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

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Last night about a dozen Tampa residents met to think about how useful trees can be for the City of Tampa. Tampa is turning over a new leaf with a new tree inventory for its urban forest.

Tampa is always aspiring to be an urban center these days it seems, but some say trees still play a valuable role for the City. Sure, they provide shade and air to breathe, but Director of Parks and Recreation Karen Palus said they can also help the economy.

Supervisor of Natural Resources for the Parks Department Kathy Beck said that the City is now reviewing its arboreal assets.

A multi-disciplinary steering committee has been formed to find ways to utilize satellite images and random ground samples for use in data analysis. University of Florida Assistant professor and steering committee member Michael Andreu said that people’s pocketbooks may be thicker as a result in the long term.

He said once that data is analyzed, public health implications related to carbon sequestration could also emerge from specific studies. And Andreu said that trees are even valuable just for existing.

And Andreu said that one reason people should care about the health of the ecosystem, is because it is a part of them.

Shawn Landry is the program director for the Florida Center for Community Design and Research at the University of South Florida. He said that many communities don’t like trees because of the risk of debris in the event of a hurricane, or even just because of allergens. But he said that neighborhood associations see the benefit of trees too.

Extension forester Rob Northrop addressed several concerns of the audience, including invasive Brazilian pepper plants, and also the high cost of tree removal. But he was particularly focused on the damage trees can do to city infrastructure.

He said the City of Tampa can spend $1.1 million in just fixing sidewalks that are damaged by roots. Michael Andreu said he looks forward to some of the cost benefit analyses of specific vegetation in Tampa.

To comment on the Urban Forest Comprehensive Plan, or to find out about upcoming events, go to tampabayforest.org.

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