Plan will help McGregor manage its urban forest

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Arborist Richard Kittleson inventoried 119 street and park trees in McGregor last summer. Thirty-six percent of them are maples, like these in Triangle Park. (NIT file photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

A newly-developed plan will help the city of McGregor manage its urban forest and budget for future maintenance and tree plantings.

The urban forest management plan was created by arborist Richard Kittleson, based on a tree inventory conducted in the community last summer. 

“The DNR Urban Forestry Department has been doing these with grants from the U.S. Forest Service, so there’s no charge to cities,” he shared during a presentation to the city council April 17.

It is McGregor’s first since 2010. Eight to 10 years later, an update can be helpful, Kittleson said. Trees can provide a multitude of benefits to the community, and sound management helps the town best take advantage of those benefits. It also helps them prepare for potential threats from forest pests, like the emerald ash borer. 

Kittleson inventoried 119 street and park trees in McGregor at the time of his visit. There are over 25 different species, which he said is good considering the smaller sample size.

“The bad news is maple is 36 percent (43 trees) of that. The recommendation from the DNR, Iowa State and other tree professionals is you should have no more than 20 percent of one particular genera,” Kittleson explained. “As you replant, other species should go in to try and change that 36 percent and get that lower.”

 The problem, he said, could come in the form of insects or diseases. 

“We don’t know anything particular at this time, but there are things out there that could really change the population,” Kittleson stated. “If we lose our maple trees, that’s going to be a big hit.”

Of McGregor’s remaining trees, 8.4 percent are broadleaf deciduous, 7.6 percent apple and 6.7 percent oak. There are 3.4 percent each of walnut, pine and birch, while 22.7 percent of the trees are considered “other.”

Most of the trees are less than 18 inches in diameter, which Kittleson said is not surprising.

About 18 percent are in need of some type of management, including crown cleaning and watering. At the time of the inventory, he recommended the removal of 12 trees—three of which were ash and have already been taken down. One ash tree is being treated.

According to Kittleson, McGregor’s trees provide $12,218 worth of benefits to the community each year, or an average of $103 per tree.

“That’s kind of a lower average,” he said, “but that’s because you have a lot of new, recently-planted trees.”

Trees make up an important part of the city’s infrastructure and are considered one of its greatest assets. Among the largest benefits is storm water interception. Each year, 161,159.4 gallons of rainfall and snowmelt are intercepted by trees rather than going through the storm water system, providing $4,367 in benefits.

Trees also conserve energy by shading buildings and blocking winds. Kittleson said McGregor’s  reduce energy-related costs by $3,173 annually. These savings come in both electricity (15.11 mega-watt hours) and natural gas (2,067 therms).

Urban forest improves air quality by removing pollutants, lowering air temperature and reducing energy consumption. That, in turn, reduces emissions from power plants. In McGregor, trees remove 190 pounds of carbon monoxide per year, worth a net value of $529. 

In relation to that, they also sequester 57,600 pounds of carbon each year and currently store 530,659 pounds of carbon, with a benefit of $3,980.

“It’s a small amount because your trees are small,” said Kittleson. “As those trees get bigger, they’re going to be storing more and more carbon that helps environmentally.”

Finally, trees offer social and aesthetic benefits, such as increasing property values and city livability and lowering rates of mental illness and crime. 

“That’s just how it makes us feel,” Kittleson shared. “Trees are good for us.”

Residents can learn more about McGregor’s trees by clicking on “View My Community’s Trees” on the Iowa DNR’s Urban Forestry webpage. If you zoom into McGregor, you’ll see yellow dots scattered throughout town, representing the trees. By clicking on one, you can see the tree location, species, size and condition. You can also do a general search by tree species, such as maple or ash.

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