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Aug 31

Modesto: Tree City, USA

Posted on August 31, 2018 at 11:39 AM by Thomas Reeves

In 1883, when construction of the McHenry Mansion landmark was completed, Robert and Matilda McHenry planted at least 20 trees along 15th and I Streets.  

Cleary Mr. McHenry knew of the immense benefits of having a tree-filled neighborhood, and those benefits have been at the heart of the city’s tree program ever since.  Not unlike many cities across the county, there is an expectation of trees in Modesto.  The benefits of a healthy tree population are vast, from the numerous environmental qualities to the aesthetic value that comes with a green canopy in a city park or along a busy street.  Our city trees reduce energy costs, help storm water management, control erosion, boost property values, build ties to our neighborhoods and neighbors, and help us better connect to the outdoors.

At one time, Modesto was one of only 3,400 communities nationwide labeled “Tree City, USA” by the Arbor Day Foundation.  In the mid-90’s the city maintained more than 110,000 street trees; and today, we oversee 81,000 trees.  

As I’m sure you can imagine, a tight budget often hinders the city’s ability to keep up with the challenges of a healthy urban forest.  

Let me give you a specific example of a challenge the city faces in maintaining its massive tree program.  

According to forestry experts, a city tree should be pruned – depending on its species, of course – at least every seven years; this has been difficult for the city to manage. 

Beyond pruning, another aspect of maintenance is water, and on a very oversimplified level, without the abundance of this cherished resource, city trees are certainly not getting the drink they need in order to remain healthy.  And on a global scale, a tree that experiences the devastation of drought is far less likely to survive.

Water is critical in ensuring a tree has the proper ability to push out killer insects and the strength to shore up its limbs.  

This city is working hard to address the challenges we face with the forestry budget and maintenance program.  We’ve got a team of people removing and pruning 40-60 trees per month, and we continue to work down a backlog of nearly 500 trees that have not yet been cared for.  Though by no means ideal, when a dead tree is reported to the city, the entire process from proper diagnosis to stump grind can take a year and a half.  

With all the challenges, I'm encouraged by the team of passionate experts we have in place to delicately manage our city trees.  Our team has some innovative ideas – including the pursuit of grant funding – for addressing our critical tree program, and we’re partnering with local groups and advocates to ensure our trees are given every possible access to water and maintenance.  I encourage more discussion on this, and we welcome your ideas on how to effectively maintain this valuable resource so we will continue to be known as a Tree City, USA.  

For now, I encourage members of the community to download the GoModesto app so you can report tree concerns.  The GoModesto app is a communication tool that allows City residents to easily connect with government services.  This intuitive, on-the-go reporting tool provides quick, easy access to online systems in seventeen languages, and helps residents instantly submit service requests to the appropriate department.  With one click, report your concerns!  Find it in your convenient app store.