The Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood Association (HONNA) takes pride in working to preserve the historical charm and natural beauty of our historic community. An integral aspect of this preservation effort is the maintenance and enhancement of our street tree canopy. Trees are not only a key attribute of our neighborhood’s unique character, but they also provide numerous environmental, social, and economic benefits. 

A recent street tree canopy study conducted by the City of St. Petersburg provides us with valuable insights into the status of our canopy and identifies opportunities for improvement.

Status of the Street Tree Canopy

The city’s study assessed the health, diversity, and coverage of street trees in our neighborhood. The findings revealed both strengths and areas for improvement. Currently, the canopy in the Old Northeast is characterized by a diverse range of tree species, including native and non-native varieties. This diversity is beneficial for ecosystem resilience and supports local wildlife. However

The study also highlighted certain challenges. One significant concern is the presence of aging and declining trees, which may pose safety risks and diminish the overall health of the canopy. The neighborhood has a large number of aging Laurel Oaks that will need to be replaced in the near future as they die and/or need to be removed for other reasons such as disease. They also are highly susceptible to tropical storm winds.

Additionally, disparities in tree coverage across different streets within the neighborhood were noted, indicating unequal access to the benefits of urban forestry. Addressing these issues requires strategic planning and community collaboration.

Benefits of a Robust Street Tree Canopy

A healthy and vibrant street tree canopy offers numerous advantages to our neighborhood. Firstly, trees improve air quality by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen, thus promoting a cleaner and healthier environment for residents. They also mitigate the urban heat island effect by providing shade and reducing surface temperatures, which is particularly important in our subtropical climate.

Furthermore, street trees enhance the aesthetic appeal of our neighborhood, contributing to property values and creating a sense of place and identity. They provide habitat for birds and other wildlife, fostering biodiversity in our urban landscape. Additionally, trees offer psychological benefits, such as stress reduction and improved mental well-being, thereby enhancing the quality of life for residents.

Strategies for Enhancement

To maximize the benefits of our tree canopy, proactive measures must be taken. Collaboration between HONNA, local government agencies, residents, and community organizations is essential. Firstly, we must prioritize the maintenance and replacement of aging and declining trees to ensure the safety and health of our urban forest. Every year, HONNA’s street tree program is responsible for several dozen trees being planted and we aim to increase that amount.

Furthermore, efforts should be made to increase tree coverage in areas that are currently underserved. This may involve resident tree planting initiatives, utilizing vacant tree wells, and advocating for green infrastructure in development projects. Selecting appropriate tree species that are well-suited to our climate and soil conditions is crucial for long-term sustainability.

Education and outreach programs can also play a vital role in engaging residents and fostering a sense of stewardship towards our street trees. By raising awareness about the importance of urban forestry and providing resources for tree care and maintenance, we can empower individuals to become active participants in preserving our neighborhood’s natural heritage. We welcome participants in our tree mapping and planting programs. 

Conclusion

The findings of the city’s study underscore the significance of our street tree canopy and the need for concerted action to enhance its health and vitality. As stewards of the Historic Old Northeast Neighborhood, HONNA is committed to preserving and augmenting our urban forest for the benefit of current and future generations. Through collaborative efforts with the city and neighborhood residents, we can ensure that our streets remain shaded, green, and vibrant for years to come.