An Introduction to Plans and Progress
Words by Sophie Franchi
It’s Spring in the Midwest now, so most of the trees lining the streets of Akron are in full bloom. The wind is brisk, and any ray of sunshine is a welcome sight. But remember for a moment what it feels like to walk to your local coffee shop or convenience store in mid-August under the blazing sun, and how welcome the shade of a big tree along the path can feel when the sidewalk is baking.
We all know that 90 percent humidity on a 90-degree day feels awful, but it’s actually dangerous as well. According to the National Weather Service, “the heat index, also known as the apparent temperature, is what the temperature feels like to the human body when relative humidity is combined with the air temperature.” As the humidity increases, the body’s ability to perspire to cool down decreases, which can lead to heat disorders like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, trees and vegetation provide shade that can lower surface temperatures by 20 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The evapotranspiration process of trees and other vegetation, especially when combined with shading, can help reduce summer temperatures by two to nine degrees Fahrenheit, which can be enough to bring the heat index down into a safer zone for people to be outside.
Reducing the heat index is just one of many benefits that trees provide. Trees also improve air quality, lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy use. They reduce erosion and pavement maintenance. They enhance stormwater management and improve water quality. They provide wildlife habitats and reduce noise. They improve public health by reducing asthma rates and decreasing UV-8 exposure. They also increase property values.
Plus, trees look a lot nicer than empty lots and tree lawns surrounded by concrete and asphalt. Imagine fall in the Midwest without a blazing canopy of yellows, oranges, and reds, or spring without the blossoming cherry or budding maple! For many residential areas in Akron where the UTC is lacking, that is the unfortunate reality. Neighborhoods with fewer trees have higher rates of asthma, more air pollution, higher surface temperatures, more stormwater runoff leading to flooding and erosion, lower property values, and higher rates of crime.
The Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) in Akron, Ohio became an area of focus for the greater Akron community in November of 2013, when Plan-It Geo was commissioned to perform “An Assessment of Urban Tree Canopy in Akron, Ohio” for the City of Akron, Akron Engineering Bureau, Akron Parks Maintenance Division, and GreenPrint Akron. Funding for the study was provided by the USDA Forest Service through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Project Clean Lake grant. This project presented data on the extent of Urban Tree Canopy (UTC) across the City of Akron, provided analysis of Possible Planting Areas (PPA) and areas unsuitable for planting, detailed the ecosystem services provided by Akron’s UTC, and recommended objectives and goals for support and facilitation of future tree planting and canopy preservation.Continue reading