COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus is lagging behind its peer cities when it comes to the canopy cover of trees. And city leaders want to change that.
The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department recently unveiled its first-ever Urban Forestry Master Plan. The goal is to guide how the city invests in its trees long-term.
“Trees are really critical to our residents’ quality of life,” said Rosalie Hendon, environmental planner for Recreation and Parks and project manager for the urban forestry master plan. “They’re cleaning our air, they’re filtering the water, they’re making walking around the city bearable, and we know that, as our city continue to warm over coming decades, they’re only going to become more important.”
The plan has three goals: to reach a citywide tree canopy cover of 40 percent, to stop the net canopy losses by 2030, and to invest in equitable canopy across all neighborhoods by 2030.
“Trees are important because of all these benefits they provide to our residents, but equity is a really key issue within the urban forestry master plan, and it’s important that trees are accessible to all residents in all neighborhoods,” Hendon said.
City leaders say a 2015 Urban Tree Canopy Assessment found that 22 percent of Columbus is covered with trees, which is much less than peer cities, including Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Pittsburgh has 40 percent coverage, while Cincinnati has 39 percent.
The city is looking to make public investment in changing these figures, but Hendon points out that everyone can play a part.
“Seventy percent of our urban forest grows on private property, so it’s really important to both plant trees on your property if you can, but also take care and preserve the trees that you have,” she said.
The public can can weigh in on the plan through Wednesday, March 31.