Driving down Queens Road, picturesque oak trees line the streets. In Uptown, trees are scattered between skyscrapers. Joggers dash through Dilworth under cool shade. Charlotte loves its trees and it shows- we have been recognized as a Tree City USA for 36 consecutive years by the Arbor Day Foundation. Most people don’t realize it takes a lot of work and care behind the scenes to build and preserve Charlotte’s tree canopy. City Arborist Tim Porter plays a huge role in that work.
Porter is the main voice for the city’s tree canopy. He manages a team that maintains nearly 180,000 street trees in the right of way and thousands more on city properties. His team is responsible for care, preservation and advocacy of the city’s public trees. This includes trimming and removing trees, issuing permits and ensuring the Tree Ordinance is followed. This group is a part of the city’s Landscape Management Division in the Engineering & Property Management department.
Porter has always loved the outdoors and activities such as hiking. He studied English and journalism in college, but he realized he wanted to do something involving nature and attended graduate school for forestry. One day he was out marking trees for a course and decided that he didn’t want to pursue that area of forestry. He then discovered a specialty called urban forestry, which focuses on managing tree populations in large city settings.
“The most appealing part of the job for me is that I get to work with the community on a daily basis and talk with them about preserving trees.” — Tim Porter
In addition to various community members, the city works closely with TreesCharlotte and the Urban Forestry division. TreesCharlotte is dedicated to growing Charlotte’s tree canopy and Urban Forestry oversees tree protection and planting trees on commercial properties and in new residential subdivisions. In 2011, Charlotte City Council adopted a goal to grow the tree canopy coverage to 50 percent by 2050.
Porter’s favorite tree is a red spruce since it reminds him of where he grew up near Syracuse, New York. Charlotte has a diverse sampling of trees. Some of the oldest trees are found in Myers Park, Wesley Heights and Grier Heights. A few weeks ago after a storm took down an oak in Wesley Heights, Porter could see at least 97 rings, indicating the tree was probably over 100 years old.
The job also brings many interesting and diverse people and scenarios into Porter’s life. Just this week, his team was called over to a look at a tree with a large amount of bees at a Charlotte Fire Department building. They are working closely with a beekeeper to remove the bees safely. Besides the famous cankerworms that invade the town each spring, other animals often found in trees include snakes, hawks, possums and cicadas (insects). It is not uncommon to for Porter’s team to witness a hawk swooping out of a tree to catch a squirrel. Staff also occasionally finds trees with concrete in the middle since it was at one time common practice to pour concrete to fix rotting trees.
Occasionally, the city explores fun ways to spotlight trees and cankerworms. Porter was a part of an April Fool’s Day story with WFAE claiming they were partnering with a local brewery in the process of creating a new beer using cankerworms. Porter advises to use tree banding to combat the bugs. Neighborhoods can sign up for a tree banding grant. The deadline to apply is Sept. 1.
So the next time you are out enjoying the shade in the Queen City, look up and think of the city’s work to grow the tree canopy. If you would like to help, TreesCharlotte offers tree planting events and a TreeMaster program. To learn more, visit here.