TreesCharlotte Takes Root to Save Our Canopy

TreesCharlotte: City needs to boost planting of trees
Leafy Charlotte aims for more tree cover

May 13, 2013

Lori Collins, StartUp Cafe

Walking through my Dilworth neighborhood, I often lament the demise of one gorgeous tree after another, as these statuesque beauties meet their master in a chip grinder.

So I was delighted to learn that TreesCharlotte Foundation has formed to save Charlotte’s iconic tree canopy. We may not have mountains or coastline, but Charlotte does boast remarkable beauty in our cascade of green all year long, even more stunning at this time of year as the dogwoods, crepe myrtles, and Bartlett pears flourish in their finest colors.

How it started

Several years ago, members of the Women’s Impact Fund came together to fund a study of the tree coverage in Charlotte. The grantors were impressed by the collaboration from Parks and Recreation, the City Water Department, local real estate developers and others that saw the value in protecting our trees for environmental, economic, health and aesthetic reasons. The final analysis showed the rapid demise of the city’s tree cover, and galvanized the City Council to adopt a resolution to reach 50% tree cover by 2050.

About the same time, the Knight Foundation had pulled together a Canopy Committee to study the issue, and ratified a plan to form the TreesCharlotte Foundation and provide initial funding. Businesswoman Marcia Simon became the local champion, along with many other business and community leaders, and led the charge to recruit real estate developer Johnny Harris to chair the Board of Directors for the new organization.

Mission of Engagement

TreesCharlotte aspires to be a catalyst for civic engagement, providing opportunities for individuals to “adopt a tree”, for neighborhood groups to enhance their shared surroundings, and for businesses to create team outings around community tree plantings. The Foundation intends to plant 25,000 trees per year, of which just 10,000 are currently in the City budget, so encouraging more trees on private property is key. Involvement from the public is important to both implementation and funding of the plan.

Startup Traction

TreesCharlotte Foundation enjoys a documented market need, an all-star Board, initial funding and a proven leader in Dave Cable, former Executive Director of Catawba Lands Conservancy. The Foundation is a public-private partnership between the City, Catawba Lands Conservancy and private investors, and has already received financial commitments from foundations, individuals and corporations. Plus, trees are not a hard sell. To quote a Board member, talking about trees to Charlotteans is like getting your dog to roll over for a belly rub.