Join with other Napa residents in asking for the inclusion of an Urban Forest Master Plan in the city’s 2040 General Plan. 

Marla Tofle is a woman with a mission.

“Napa’s trees make our city and our neighborhoods livable, beautiful, and welcoming,” she said. “I want to do whatever I can to protect and enhance our shade canopy, so it’s robust and healthy for years to come.”

Tofle is joining other Napa residents in asking for the inclusion of an Urban Forest Master Plan in the city’s 2040 General Plan.

Tofle, a somatics teacher, and her husband, Bruce Fenton, a civil engineer, recently redid the landscaping at their Fuller Park neighborhood home. They planted 12 trees in their formerly treeless yard, and two street trees.

“The City Parks and Recreation Services Department was our ally in the process of planting street trees. We planted two trident maple trees in front, but technically they’re not our trees. The trees that are in the public right of way are owned by all of Napa’s residents.”

Tofle became concerned about trees when she saw mature street trees being cut down in her neighborhood. In 2012, she and her neighbors wanted to know why this was happening and held a meeting with the mayor and city staff.

“It was a very emotional meeting because people don’t like to lose trees. We learned that sidewalks were being repaired at the expense of trees. But we can have both, if we look at how other communities protect trees. That’s why we need to have a vision of protecting and enhancing our urban forest and shade canopy included in the General Plan update.”

Our urban forest consists of all the trees in the city — in parks, private yards, commercial lots, and within the public right of way (“street trees”). These trees do much more than beautify our city and add to property values. They are a critical part of our natural infrastructure. Trees lower temperatures by providing shade and cooling through evapotranspiration. Trees reduce stormwater runoff and improve water quality by absorbing and filtering rainwater. They act to reduce noise and buffer winds, adding to our quality of life.

“Trees are more important than ever as we work to protect our city from climate change impacts” says Nancy McCoy-Blotzke, chairperson of Napa Climate NOW!’s Forest Protection Committee. “The EPA reports that tree shading can reduce peak temperatures by 20-45 degrees. Trees draw down — sequester — carbon from the atmosphere as they absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. They absorb other climate pollutants including ozone and the super-warming particulate black carbon (found in diesel exhaust). Both of these actions work to slow increases in the heat-trapping greenhouse gas layer.”

Dave Perazzo, City of Napa Parks & Urban Forestry manager, and John “Woody” Hedderman, City of Napa Urban Forestry supervisor, are charged with carrying out the city’s tree programs.

Parks and Recreation Services is responsible for the regulation of trees on public and private property. There are four city arborists who evaluate tree health, advise on ways to prevent tree removal during sidewalk repair, develop pruning plans for publicly owned trees, and review tree removals and plantings for development projects.

They are laying the groundwork for developing an Urban Forest Master Plan for the city. Perazzo explains, “A couple of years ago the Tree Advisory Commission was looking at updating the tree ordinances but we realized we needed to look at our whole urban forest, we needed more data—to see what type of trees we have, to see where there are holes in the canopy — and then we can develop a plan and policies for the urban forest.”

This process will require help from additional staff to create a city tree map, starting with a GIS technician to enter data on tree location and species, and help from the community. Perazzo has already done outreach to the Master Gardeners for help in the future with mapping and identifying trees.

“We have had the street trees “pinpointed” and we have more than 25,000. We believe there are at least that many trees in our parks as well. We’ll need the community to help us gather data for the map and also help give input as the Urban Forest Master Plan is developed over the next two years.”

Perazzo concurs. “I think urban forestry needs to be included in the General Plan update. Woody and I are both Certified Arborists and we do this work because we care about trees and our community. The urban forest is a vital part of a sustainable community.”

Just as we depend on our trees for a beautiful and healthful place to live, our trees depend on us for their protection and care, now and into the future.

Actions you can take:

1. National Public Lands Day Planting, Saturday Sept. 28, 9 a.m. at Kennedy Park. To register, call (707) 257-9960.

2. Learn more at the Parks, Recreation, and Tree Advisory Commission meetings

3. Share your interest in including an Urban Forest Management Plan in Napa’s 2040 General Plan with the City of Napa General Plan Advisory Committee on Monday, Sept. 23, 5:30 p.m. Napa City Council chambers.

4. Report a problem with a street tree at the city’s online Service Center

5. Apply to plant a street tree at Street Tree Planting Application

This article was originally published on the Napa Valley Register here.