The Trees of Tree Town
Gray doesn't expect the plan to dictate what home owners plant. But "if the city approves a site plan for commercial development, it should have a list of species that can't be planted. Another approach is developing partnerships with nurseries to encourage plants that are part of the heritage of the region. In Michigan, the Nature Conservancy has partnered with Meijer to remove plants that are invasive from their nursery operations. That's been a big help in reducing plants that are most problematic."
While the city does control what trees are planted along streets and in parks, it has limited resources. By the terms of Elizabeth Dean's bequest, the principal of the Dean Fund must be invested in U.S. Treasury notes. So at the same time that the forestry department's staff and budget have shrunk, interest from the fund has plummeted. Bairley says the fund brought in about $200,000 a year during the high-interest Reagan years. Thanks to the Great Recession and Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke's commitment to keeping interest rates low, this fiscal year's income is just $50,000.
"With cutbacks, there are others trying to fill in what the city can't afford to do," Al Gallup notes. "The Rotary spends $80,000 a year on trees and parks, and they've done it for at least five years."