Tacoma has the lowest tree canopy in Puget Sound region; city wants to change that

Ask residents in Tacoma if the city has a lot of trees and most would probably say "yes."

“On this street, we do. I know because I rake the leaves every year,” said Mary Denend, who lives in the city’s Proctor neighborhood.

But according to a study by the city, Tacoma has “the lowest assessed tree canopy in the Puget Sound region.” In short, there are not enough trees. Part of the reason is a lack of regulations.

“For instance, the city of Tacoma has one of the least heavy-handed regulations around tree protection in the region,” said Michael Carey, Tacoma’s Urban Forest Program manager.

The City Council wants to change that and, literally, grow the canopy. An Urban Forest Resolution before the council Tuesday kicks off an action plan to get more trees in the city and keep mature trees alive and thriving.

Carey says more trees would mean a number of benefits.

“Trees do things like remove air pollutants from our atmosphere. They absorb carbon. They filter through stormwater and help provide cleaner stormwater to our Puget Sound,” Carey said.

There are a lot more trees in the city's more affluent north end. But farther south, the canopy can virtually disappear. The lack of tree cover in lower-income neighborhoods is obvious once you compare the two. Sarah Timmons, who lives in south Tacoma, said she likes the changes more trees would bring.

“Even just in front of the bus stops would be better, so people aren’t roasting to death in 90-degree weather,” said Timmons.

One way to add more trees is to convince property owners to plant them. The city offers cash incentives and a list of trees that live long healthy lives so homeowners can help grow the urban forest. Tacoma offers a Tree Coupon Program on its website.

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