State of the Urban Forest Report to Showcase Bloomington’s 19,000 Public Trees

(BLOOMINGTON) – The City of Bloomington will share its most recent actions to sustain and increase its urban forest in a presentation Tuesday, September 17 at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall (401 N. Morton St.). 

The State of the Urban Forest report will showcase results of a comprehensive count and evaluation of public trees undertaken in the spring of this year and unveil an online dashboard where the information can be publicly accessed. 

In addition, the report will set out a prioritized tree planting plan, indicating where new trees will have the biggest positive impact on environmental health. 

Designated as a Tree City USA by the National Arbor Foundation since 1984, Bloomington has diligently maintained the size and health of its urban forest.  Having long maintained regular counts of its tree inventory, the City contracted with Ohio-based Davey Resource Group, Inc. late last year to increase and refine the level of information collected about the City’s 19,000 publicly-owned trees.  

“Trees give life and enhance the quality of life,” said Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton.  “They capture carbon, reduce erosion, offer windbreak and shade, and foster biodiversity. Ensuring that our urban forest is thriving and increasing is a key pillar of the City’s Sustainability Action Plan.” 

At Tuesday’s event, the consultants will present data collected by five teams of arborists over more than five months about the size, species, and condition of trees in city rights of way, along city streets, and in some city parks.  Along with a prioritized tree planting plan, the evening will include an analysis of the community’s overall tree canopy — an aerial view of land cover including tree canopy as well as pervious, and impervious surfaces. The view highlights the impact private landowners can have on extending the tree canopy. 

“With this new inventory, we have used the latest technology to capture detailed information about publicly-owned trees: what species there are in what concentrations, where trees are needed, and where the highest maintenance needs are,” said Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department’s Urban Forester Lee Huss. “Using more precise data like this can maximize the efficiency of our tree work crews and ensure resources are focused on the areas with the greatest need.”

Inventory data has been uploaded into TreeKeeper, a tree inventory management software system. This new data will be compared to numbers collected during two previous tree inventories in 1994 and 2007 and will be available online both to resource managers and to the public.

Together with Bloomington Tree Commission President Laurel Cornell, Huss will speak at Tuesday evening’s presentation about the commission’s work on the Parks department’s five-year urban forestry plan.

Bloomington’s commitment to its trees was formally acknowledged in 1984, when Bloomington became the first city in Indiana to receive Tree City USA designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation. The designation requires that a city maintain a tree board or commission, a tree care ordinance, a community forestry program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita (Bloomington’s is more than $8.50 per capita), and an annual Arbor Day observance and proclamation. The city has successfully met all the criteria to retain its Tree City designation every year since 1984.  In 2018, the City issued a Bicentennial Bond to plant an additional 1,400 public trees.