I soon learned that the giant Oak had begun to list toward the neighbor’s house after the high winds of the storm. It had to be removed.
The storm had also claimed many trees on nearby Riverview Road. Each time I biked oh-so-slowly up the hill from the swim club, I had time to fret about the trees.
I secretly hoped the homeowners who had lost trees would quickly replace them with big-canopy varieties that would shade nearby roofs and cut down on everyone’s air conditioning needs. (According to the US Department of Agriculture, “the cooling impact of a single healthy tree is equivalent to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 24 hours a day”.)
hoped the homeowners would also consider the benefits trees provide in stormwater control. (According to the PA Department of Environmental Protection, the water quality of our local stream is officially “impaired” because too much of our rain water flows directly into our storm drains and then into the stream, instead of being slowly absorbed and filtered by tree roots.)
I thought about the book I’d read over the winter by Jeff Speck, Walkable City. According to Speck, having trees on our streets makes us healthier, wealthier, happier and safer. For example,
- A study conducted at a suburban Pennsylvania hospital over a 10-year period found that patients with tree views “had fewer negative evaluations, required many fewer doses of potent narcotics, had a lower likelihood of postsurgical complications and were discharged earlier”.
- In a Wharton School of Business study, trees planted within 50 feet of houses in one Philadelphia neighborhood caused home prices to increase by nine percent – the equivalent of $22,500 on a $250,000 home, the median value of a Swarthmore home according to Zillow.com.
- Traffic engineering studies have shown that trees reduce driver stress, finding “a drive on a treeless street is perceived to be significantly longer than an equal-length drive on a street lined with trees.”
- A 2005 traffic study in Toronto found “the presence of street trees and other vertical objects correlated with a five to 20% decline in midblock crashes”, and a more recent study in Orlando found that streets without trees “experienced more midblock crashes, 45% more injurious crashes and a dramatically higher number of fatal crashes: six versus zero”.
I knew that in Swarthmore we are lucky to have an active Street Tree Committee. Each fall and spring they arrange for local nurseries to offer us bargain-priced trees – trees that are specifically chosen because they provide a beautiful street umbrella, create cool shading for our sidewalks, and are known to thrive in our region. The Street Tree Committee will even help residents arrange for installation of the trees.
Just a few weeks ago I was coming home from walking my dogs in the neighborhood when I turned the corner onto my block and noticed for the first time a long stretch of the street without street trees, a lawn where the grass had turned brown from the scorching summer sun. It was my lawn!
OMG! How could I have missed something so obvious?
These past two weeks I’ve been eagerly awaiting my two new street trees - native White Oaks that have a nice yellow fall color and will eventually reach 60 feet tall. My family and I will enjoy the benefits from these two trees for many years to come. I hope my neighbors will forgive me for waiting so long to plant them.