Release Date: February 2,2021

Mayor Horrigan Releases Comprehensive Tree Canopy Study and Long-Term Strategy to Sustain Akron’s Urban Forest

Benefits of a healthy tree canopy include storm water interception, better air quality, improved community health, increased property values and more equitable neighborhood development
 
Akron, Ohio, February 1, 2021 — Today, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan is releasing the 2021 Akron Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Planting Plan.  This plan is the result of more than 18 months of work by the Office of Integrated Development, partnering with Davey Tree, to assess the existing tree canopy in Akron and chart a path forward to sustain the many environmental and social benefits the tree canopy generates citywide.
 
An urban tree canopy is the percentage of land that is covered by a layer of leaves and branches of tree crowns that shelter the ground when viewed from above. The tree canopy produces critically important benefits for an urban community, including removing pollutants and carbon from the air and reducing peak stormwater flows.  A healthier urban forest is linked to improved health outcomes for residents—including lower rates of respiratory disease, improved birth outcomes, and other physical and psychological benefits. Other benefits include increasing property values, reducing the burden of the heat island effect, and enhancing a sense of safety and community in urban neighborhoods.
 
“The social and environmental benefits of a healthy urban forest are exponential,” Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said.  “Unlike other infrastructure assets, the investments made into our urban forest actually increase in community value over time.  Through our federally-mandated sewer program, we have pledged to plant two new trees for every one tree removed.  Fulfilling this commitment, combined with a focus on reviving the urban forest in neighborhoods most impacted by tree loss and disinvestment, will ensure that the benefits of the tree canopy are not concentrated only in areas of wealth but are shared throughout Akron.”
 
The annual benefits Akron received from its tree cover (using 2018 data) is estimated to be approximately $27.3 million. The tree canopy in Akron removed an estimated 1.2 million pounds of pollutants and 70,113 tons of carbon from the air while slowing more than 255 million gallons of stormwater from entering combined and storm sewer drains. 
 
According to the report, Akron’s current urban tree canopy is 34.85%, which indicates a healthy urban forest when compared with similar mid-sized, northeastern cities. However, Akron has been losing tree canopy over time. In seven years, from 2011 to 2018, the Akron tree canopy lost 1.93%, which amounts to a loss of 768.12 acres of canopy. The decline is linked to various issues including the City’s sewer project, other development projects, and private residential tree loss (trees being removed voluntarily or due to old age or damage from the emerald ash borer, storms, etc.) as well as the lack of funding available for sufficient replacement.  And the decline has been more concentrated in certain neighborhoods, as outlined in the report.
“A healthy urban forest is among the most impactful local steps we can take in fighting climate change, and this plan details a pathway toward sustaining the existing tree canopy with a focus on equity,” Deputy Mayor for Integrated Development James Hardy said.  “But, the City only has direct influence over roughly 10% of the total land available for tree canopy in Akron.  A successful management strategy that will maintain a healthy urban forest must involve commitments from both the public and private sectors. The City’s immediate focus will be investing in planting trees on public land and right of way.”
 
Akron planted 1,800 new trees through its 2020 planting program, and will continue that investment each year through at least 2024.  In 2020, the City was able to plant an additional 350 trees, thanks to a generous donation from First Energy Corp, a partnership the City is hoping to continue in 2021.
 
“Technology has yet to replicate the air quality benefits the humble tree provides,” said Jon Malish, City of Akron arborist.  “For Akron to remain a thriving, welcoming, and ‘green’ city, it is important that all property owners, both public and private, adopt the mindset of not removing urban trees unless they are dangerous, unhealthy, or will be replaced elsewhere in our community.”
 
Residents interested in learning more about the benefits of street trees can explore the National Tree Benefits calculator tool available at www.treebenefits.com/calculator.