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Sandy Springs is looking to spend more on trees

Sandy Springs expects to have over $1 million in its Tree Fund, so staff have proposed planting and education ideas to the city council to improve the city’s tree canopy.

Sandy Springs could increase educational activities, tree plantings and possibly hire an urban forester according to recommendations on how to use a tree fund that has reached $920,000 and is expected to generate an additional $300,000 in revenue this year . Typically, $150,000 is spent annually from the fund.

Kayaks on the Morgan Falls Overlook Park Trail next to the Chattahoochee River

The city’s Tree Fund was created to replace the tree canopy or for its preservation, Catherine Mercier-Baggett, the city’s sustainability officer, said at a February 15 city council meeting.

Councilman Andy Bauman asked if the city should review its tree conservation ordinance and system of fines for violations.

The clearcut is affecting his district, council member TIbby Dejulio said. He said more education, enforcement and review by an arborist might be needed.

The tree discussion comes just weeks after residents spoke out at a council meeting in January, saying the city did not have a strict enough tree ordinance.

Current uses of the fund include planting trees in city projects, parks and facilities. The funds also pay for a survey of all public trees.

Additionally, a program with Trees Atlanta plants trees on the right-of-way and front yard of residents’ homes. Trees Atlanta provides three trees per property.

“There are some restrictions, but in general most homeowners can get up to three trees planted by Trees Atlanta for free, thanks to Tree Funds. So if you have any interested neighbors let us know,” she said.




As part of a maintenance plan, the city also uses funds for the maintenance of public trees.

“The latest initiative we’re paying for with the Tree Fund is invasive species control in our public parks,” Mercier-Baggett said.

A dedicated person visits the parks and tends to English ivy, kudzu and other invasive species.

She presented several pilot programs recommended by staff:

  • Property acquisition
  • Maintenance of emblematic trees
  • Plant on private property
  • Educational activities

Mayor Rusty Paul, Councilman John Paulson, and other members of council have found it useful to adopt educational activities such as those in Atlanta and Decatur.

The staff recommended a dedicated educational program including seminars on tree selection and care, pruning classes, invasive plant removal workshops and volunteer events, activities with children and a celebration of the Arbor Day.

“The education project, I think, is crucial. A lot of people don’t understand how important it is to get rid of these invasive species,” Paul said. “Not only do they damage trees, but here we have a real problem with copperhead bitten pups because English ivy is just a breeding ground for snakes.”

Sandy Springs could copy the way Atlanta, Decatur, and Peachtree City acquire properties with at least 75% canopy cover, old growth forests, or sensitive habitats such as wetlands, steep slopes, or habitats for endangered species. Endangered.

“They would not be developed as an active park. But there could be light recreation that has a light footprint, like trails,” Mercier-Baggett said.

Under cost-sharing with landowners, the City could manage the upkeep of signature trees, either hardwoods 27 inches in diameter at breast height or pine trees 30 inches in diameter. The city would provide 25% of maintenance funds to a maximum of $1,000 every four years and the owner 75%. The maintenance plan for each marker tree would be based on the treatment plan of a certified arborist.

The board was a little less enthusiastic about cost sharing for planting on private property.

In this pilot program, the city would provide trees, soil and plantings, with the owner responsible for site preparation. Equity planting would concern multi-family units whose households earn less than 80% of the area median income (AMI). Single-family properties with less than 80% AMI would also be part of the program.

Non-residential properties such as legal and non-compliant parking lots would be included.

Councilor Melody Kelley asked what kind of guardrails would be in place to ensure the homeowner does their part and doesn’t just remove the trees later.

Mercier-Baggett said those details have been ironed out, but the city could enter into a contract with the owner that if the tree is damaged in any way through the fault of the owner, he will have to then repay the funds or replant it.

“I would need to hear a lot more about private ownership initiatives because I think it’s a slippery slope. And especially the apartments are bought and sold for crazy sums, ”said council member Jody Reichel.

In order for the city to come in and plant trees, she hoped the new owners would maintain the property.

Mercier-Baggett also said staff recommend hiring an urban forestry coordinator to oversee and manage all Tree Fund programs. The position could also provide the arborist for the Community Development Department.

“Right now, our community development arborist is working full-time on permit review, which means there is a gap. There is a need for our public projects,” she said.

Staff will continue to develop details of pilot projects to bring back for discussion.







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