May 3, 2010 in City

Spokane’s urban forester: Trees are everyone’s responsibility

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photo

jesset@spokesman.com Angel Spell, standing next to a large apricot tree at the Corbin Art Center on Friday, is Spokane’s new urban forester.
(Full-size photo)

Angel Spell started work April 5 as the city of Spokane’s urban forester. Spell previously served in urban forester positions in Post Falls and Hayden. She earns $62,389 a year in her new job and lives on the South Hill.

Q. What is your first priority?

A. The parks department has done an exceptional job of caring for the city’s park trees. But that’s not the complete community forest. So we’re focusing on connecting that level of care throughout the city by working with the public on caring for our street trees. We’re going to work on an education piece this year to talk about our shared responsibility in caring for those street trees: What the homeowners can do and what we can provide to ensure that the level of care that our park trees have been getting extends throughout the city.

Q. What’s hurting street trees?

A. One thing is neglect. Another is improper pruning. One step that the city recently took was in strengthening its ordinance for licensing of commercial tree services working on public trees.

Q. Do you have a favorite tree?

A. I have a few favorites. The oaks in general are a favorite, and I’m very fond of the western larch.

Q. The city regulates the planting of street trees depending on the width between the sidewalk and curb. Do you believe the rules are too strict?

A. No, I don’t. Planting too large of a tree in too small of a space is going to become expensive later when you have to maintain that inappropriate planting. On a case-by-case basis, we will make exceptions to our guidelines depending on what other site conditions might allow. The other thing we’re working on right now is deviating the other structures, deviating the sidewalk, deviating the curb. So if you’re going to replant in a three-foot strip, maybe we can make it a five-foot strip.

Q. You’re looking for funding to pay for an inventory of the city’s public trees. Why is this needed?

A. The community forest is a huge public asset worth millions and millions of dollars. What we’re looking to do is gather that information so that we understand this asset (and) we understand what its needs are.

Q: What can be done to improve the urban forest?

A: One thing we do is encourage people to consider a program called Reforest Spokane (run by the Spokane Parks Foundation). That’s a program where individuals can donate to have trees planted on their streets, in their neighborhoods.

Q: The city recently created the Spokane Historic Tree Register and added three trees to it (an elm, an apricot and a horse chestnut at the Corbin Art Center). What is the purpose of the list?

A: It provides wonderful education opportunities for the community to know and understand what our potential is in the protection and preservation of trees.


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