A Marrickville streetscape. Photo June 2016.

A Marrickville streetscape. Photo June 2016.

In 2015 Melbourne City Council allocated each of their 77,000 public trees an email address.  It was intended that people could report vandalism or trees that were in a severe state of decline. Instead the trees were inundated with love letters.

By July 2015 over 3,000 emails concerning the city’s trees were received.  These were sent not only by citizens of Melbourne, but also tourists from all around the world who wanted to express their love for Melbourne’s trees.  Melbourne City Council were surprised at the positive response toward the urban forest, though I think the response is understandable because many streetscapes in Melbourne are phenomenally beautiful. Perhaps it is that you become used to what you see every day.

The City of Melbourne also has an online interactive map of their urban forest.  This map provides all kinds of information about the urban forest from individual trees to whole precincts & plans for the future.  See – http://bit.ly/1xPGgwJ

To me this shows that Melbourne City Council is very sure of their plans for the future & confident of public scrutiny.

The online interactive map also has a great educational aspect, allowing anyone, including schools, to find out more about their urban forest.  They even have an opportunity for people to become citizen urban foresters to “become an advocate for planning issues affecting trees in your area.”  Wow!  That is commitment to working with the community!  I am impressed.

Twelve months on & the City of Knoxville in the USA have picked up this initiative.  The canopy in Knoxville is around 40%. All the trees are covered by the Tree Inventory & available to see on an online interactive map.  Each tree has information about the species, its history & features.

Each tree has an email address that allows citizens to write an email to the tree addressing any concerns they may have.  The email goes directly to a Knoxville urban forester who will read the email & reply back on behalf of the tree.

The idea is that the community help the Department of Urban Forestry to manage the urban forest by reporting things happening with trees that the council may not know about until it develops into a problem.

“It shows the commitment the city’s got to the urban forest,” said Arborist Daniel Laine & I would agree with him. What will be interesting is whether the Knoxville trees receive love letters, as happened in Melbourne.

Well done to both these councils.  I think this initiative is excellent & one that includes the community in their urban forest beyond a once-off consultation about the Urban Forest Policy is always preferable in the long-run.

Times change. The demographics change & so do attitudes concerning trees.  Having interactive engagement programs like this allows the community to have more of a voice as to how their streetscapes look.  Importantly, the benefits for learning about our local environment are huge & the potential for schools is also vast.

The article about Knoxville comes with a short news video.  What I find of interest is the leafy outlook of their public spaces.  It is worth a look. See – http://on.wbir.com/28V68XM