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The city of Harrisonburg hosted a presentation and discussion for members of the community to review the city's urban tree canopy management initiatives. Information was presented on current tree canopy coverage and members of the public are now invited to share ideas for improving the city's stormwater management efforts through tree canopy enhancement, protection, and restoration. Members of the community are encouraged to provide input on specific locations in the city that need more tree canopy and for tree-related practices and programs that are not currently in place. 

Additional information can be found at

Please give us your input on specific locations in Harrisonburg that need more tree canopy and your ideas for tree-related practices and programs that are not currently in place. 

6 Responses

Paul Bassett about 1 year ago

I notice the Vista at Meadow Pointe HOA common area on Pointe Drive has been identified as an area where adding trees for increased canopy is recommended. As a member of The Vista HOA I couldn't agree more. However, being familiar with HOA's I'd like to suggest that while the planting of trees is in the best interest of the City Stormwater and Tree Canopy initiatives that adding trees is a large benefit to the HOA and community values. As such, I suggest that this and other affected HOA's be brought into the City processes and be obliged to bare a portion of the maintenance costs. This could include committee to ensure annual fertilization, pruning, and mulching be budgeted and scheduled for. This could also be extended to reoprting to the City that those actions have been completed.

First and second year routine watering can be a problem at the HOA level.

Best, Paul Bassett

0 Supports
Arthur Hamilton about 1 year ago

A great place for a tree would be South Main St. in front of Shenandoah Bicycle where the parking lot meets the sidewalk. There is plenty of space there. This would be an ideal place for a tree which would provide a beautiful canopy at a focal point in town. It would totally change the view coming down South Main St.. In time it would screen the feed mill which currently dominates and defines our downtown.

Thanks for asking!

1 Support
Matt Hassman about 1 year ago

It is noted in the presentation that over 93% of the city land is privately owned. It appears to me that the largest opportunity to plant on public property is at the schools. What a great opportunity to create a teaching tool for students regarding stewardship and awareness of our natural world. Another thought I have is regarding the above ground utilities. They seem like a barrier to having a good canopy in our neighborhoods. What is the feasibility of getting them underground?

2 Supports
Ralph Grove about 1 year ago

I second Matt's comment. School grounds are de facto city parks, and should be managed as such. All of the schools should have tree canopy, walking paths, and other amenities that will improve them for use by students and city residents in general.

0 Supports
Lori Reich about 1 year ago

Trees should be planted in medians of asphalt parking lots over the size of 25 cars. It would provide shade for cars but moreover, cool the temperature of the asphalt. A bit of grass or shrubery around the tree provides for the successful growth of the tree. It also slows and filters stormwater runoff, allowing a greater percentage to infiltrate into the ground. Really this should be a city ordinance for any new develepement.

0 Supports
Peaceful Yard about 1 year ago

It is quite frustrating to see in the linked presentation the slide: "Trees: Create Healthy Communities." The research cited there has been presented to the city for years, and has been aggressively resisted by the former City Councils, Community Development under the previous director, and Storm Water Advisory Committee as of the time when meetings were restructured to limit public input (into an advisory committee??).

The most cost-effective way to reach the goal that the science is pushing through the regulators from above is to allow succession to proceed on unused public and private land and to allow cultural practices to be relaxed on occupied residential lots. The biggest easily changed driver preventing vegetative cover, including natural linkage of corridors, is 16-6-58, the ordinance on Tall Grass and Weeds. As amended in 2012, this ordinance led to twice as much lawn mowing, with a sizable proportion of yards in a sample that was followed over several year being over-mowed to the point of exposing bare soil. The ordinance amendment also drove more than one large property holder to cease what, for generations, had been a customary practice of mowing a strip around a parcel and allowing the rest to grow naturally.

Where experiments have been tried, during a time of push-back against 16-6-58 that started with the Business Garden movement and ended with the buy-in to the Middle River Regional Jail, results were consistent with the research in the slide "Trees: Create Healthy Communities." At the time, Liberty Park was seeing renewed activity (that later, misguidedly, led it to be decimated), a major empty lot was providing hundreds interaction with green space and was documented to be holding runoff like a sponge, and numerous other green space initiatives were being carried out by individuals and institutions, many symbolically marked with sunflowers. Most striking was a decrease in incarceration rate that remains unmatched in the history of the city. While causal connections are hard to draw, erring on the side of the preponderance of research documenting multiple benefits seems reasonable.

At the moment, there is a bias in initiatives like that proposed here toward generating revenue for private contractors on one side, and helping commercial interests avoid regulation on the other. In the process, opportunities for creating a healthier community are thwarted. In a healthier community, incidentally, property values (mentioned in above slides) would not increase as much near parks. A property price increase near parks in a city like Harrisonburg implies greater segregation: if property values are going up because people are competing to live in one part of the city, they must be decreasing in the parts they are fleeing. "Property value" is code for "exclusion" especially in a city like Harrisonburg with largely pre-determined population drivers.

As for mature residential tree canopy, the biggest threat to conserving what we have is tree topping. This is a delicate issue that arborists have been struggling with for at least a century. Unscrupulous contractors con victims into having their trees topped, knowing they will get repeat business when the tree they damaged generates ongoing demand for service as it becomes actually dangerous or dies. Like any con, people resist accepting that they have been conned. A direct incentive to preserve mature natural trees might be a way forward: for the chance to educate potential victims as much as anything. Inspectors, instead of the 1/3 of their time they now spend enforcing 16-6-58, could take inventories to provide a modest residential natural tree credit which would be removed if a tree was removed or topped. The credit showing up on bills could be a site to send the message that natural trees are desirable, and that topping is a fraud.

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0 Supports