Grand Rapids, Mich. has 34.6 percent canopy cover according to the Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project website, and has a goal of reaching 40 percent across the entire city. Canopy cover refers to the amount of space covered by the shade of a trees canopy as seen from overhead. If you have ever parked your car in a blacktop lot on a sunny day with no tree cover you can understand the value of shade, but is it worthy of taxpayer dollars and the sacrifice of property rights?
The 2011 Green Grand Rapids amendment to the City’s Master plan established the new goal of 40 percent canopy cover. The city and organizations pushing for the 40 percent canopy goal believe that the community can gain great economic benefit by accomplishing this goal. They claim that the urban forest protects against floods, pollution, and even reduces energy usage through increased shade and cooling. This economic benefit has been calculated with the assistance of I-tree, a program developed by USDA to perform benefit analysis of increasing the urban canopy. Over the last couple of years there have been thousands of trees planted along streets and in public areas through the efforts of these organizations and others like Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, the City of Grand Rapids Office of Sustainability and Energy, and Alliance of Community Trees, but this has barely scratched the surface of achieving this goal. Therefore, this goal is unlikely to be achievable using only public land which may lead to some issues with property rights. (more…)