Collaborative: It takes everyone to build Charlotte’s tree canopy

By: Nicole Eaton, Charlotte Communications & Marketing

“In my daily work so many people come together to preserve, protect and celebrate trees.” — Erin Oliverio, Tree Canopy Manager

On a sunny afternoon at Garinger High School, Japanese cedar trees grace the school’s entrance on the right side. To the left, a variety of trees shade the school’s perimeter with some smaller, new trees standing in the front line. This site was one of many where non-profit TreesCharlotte held a tree planting event two years ago. Erin Oliverio is the Tree Canopy Manager for the City of Charlotte and works closely with organizations like TreesCharlotte and the community on programs to grow Charlotte’s tree canopy.

This urban forest is important because it defines our city and provides benefits to everyone. As an African proverb reads, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is now.” The work Erin and her team are doing will provide benefits for future generations and help keep Charlotte a beautiful and green city.

Erin’s work wouldn’t be possible without collaboration with City staff (Land Development, Neighborhood & Business Services, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services and Landscape Management), TreesCharlotte, volunteers and other stakeholders. All of these groups are working together towards a shared vision: to grow Charlotte’s tree canopy to 50 percent by the year 2050, a goal Charlotte City Council adopted in 2011.

Preserving and growing our tree canopy has its challenges, and everyone in the community has a part to play. Thousands of trees (such as the iconic large oaks) planted around the same time period are reaching the end of their lifespan- all at once. Also, the accelerated growth of Charlotte leads to tree loss due development. A tree protection policy is in place and trees are being replanted; but replanting won’t counteract all the losses. Additionally, there is an overall lack of awareness of the benefits trees provide, their importance to the community and ways the landscape can be managed to optimize the urban forest.

So far the efforts of TreesCharlotte, its partners and volunteers have paid off. These groups have planted more than 20,000 containerized trees, engaged over 9,300 volunteers and held five successful Tree Canopy Action summits. That’s in addition to the City planting thousands of trees each year, maintaining over 180,000 street trees and banding 5,500 trees for cankerworms each fall.

To find out how you can collaborate with TreesCharlotte, be sure to take a look at its volunteer opportunities which includes leading groups of volunteers, helping package tree seedlings for giveaways and more. You can sign up at treescharlotte.org.