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Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - 3:07pm

In Atlanta, Fallen Trees Are Putting Stress On The City

Have you lost a beloved tree in your neighborhood and park due to recent storms? You can probably expect more of the same before the summer is out. A recent spate of heavy rains around Atlanta claimed dozens of old-growth trees that shaded the city’s parks and neighborhoods. Atlanta is known as the City in the Forest and the loss of these trees is no small problem.

On a recent walk through Grant Park in Southeast Atlanta, yellow police tape peeks out here and there, and impossibly tall trees lay on their sides, roots up for all the world to see.
In Atlanta, fallen trees have become a regular occurrence.

Alicia Chambers is with the Grant Park Conservancy, a nonprofit that’s devoted to the city’s oldest park. She toured damage after a storm earlier this month.

“Every [summer] typically around this time, August or September, we get a heavy rain event, and we get some wind, and we lose some trees,” said Chambers. “Last year we lost four or five large trees. In this storm event, we lost about six large trees.”

Yes, six trees in one storm. And they can’t be replaced.

There are logical reasons for some of the losses. For example, many of Atlanta's trees were planted 100 years old ago, and are reaching the end of their normal lifespan.

But it doesn’t make the prognosis any easier. And after a period of drought last decade, and heavier rains in recent years, stress on the city’s tree canopy is rising.

Greg Levine with the nonprofit, Trees Atlanta, says there is no question that the city has lost tree cover.

The storms, say Levine, exacerbate damage from decades of developing virgin forest land. And in a city like Atlanta, large shade trees are good for keeping the city cool. They also have a distinguishing quality.

“It’s our biggest asset. San Francisco has some beautiful hilltops, Redwoods, and a great bridge or two,” said Levine. “ Other cities have the ocean or rivers going through it. But Atlanta is really known for its forest.”

Residents plant trees, which helps. But Levine says often they plant small trees that do little to shade neighborhoods.

Levine’s group, Trees Atlanta, plants thousands of trees each year. And he said it will soon begin planting double the number of trees it normally plants.

But that won’t immediately undo the damage Atlanta’s trees are seeing this summer. And more thunderstorms are likely.

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