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Greening the City & Suburbs with Street Trees

May 7, 2009 Downtown, Environment 14 Comments

I think it is safe to say we have more street trees in the City of St. Louis today than at any time in the history of the city.  Historic streetscape photos reveal wonderful architecture and busy sidewalks, but they were sidewalks without trees.  It is understandable why in the middle of the 20th Century planners sought to create open space.  Because there was very little open or green.  I think they went too far and calls today for open space are meaningless when we’ve an excess of open but a strong lack in quality urban space.  I favor infilling our blocks while greening our streets.

This past weekend I was delighted to see the addition of additional street trees on 17th street:

And looking North:

The parked vehicles and street trees help separate the pedestrian on the sidewalk from the passing cars on the road.  Take away the trees and stationary vehicles and the pedestrian experience becomes quite different.

The Blu CitySpaces condo project did the street trees on their side of 17th but also on the West side of 17th in front of the 7-11.   In a few years 17th will have a nice canopy from these trees. In other parts of the city we see many tree-lined streets and many barren streets.  I lived in Old North St. Louis in the early 1990s when we cut the sidewalk along St. Louis Ave to plant street trees.  These are nice and mature.

Regardless of where you live, street trees can make a big difference.  Newer subdivisions in suburbia especially.  Most often these houses have the single tree out in the lawn but nothing lining the street.  If your subdivision has sidewalks one of the best things you and your neighbors can do is to line your street with trees — with trees planted between the curb & sidewalk.


Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. Chris says:

    If you call the Forestry Division in the City, they will plant a street tree in your outlawn (the area between the sidewalk and street) for free if they judge it to be a viable spot. It was really easy, and I encourage everybody to do it.

  2. Brian S. says:

    That looks fantastic – BLU did a great job, it should serve as a model for the rest of the street.

    I would really like to see street trees added to Broadway and Fourth Street. It would be a huge improvement.

  3. Aragornman says:

    Planting street trees (correctly so that they survive) is one of the best things you can do for the aesthetic of a place. I would wager that it increases propoerty values as well. It definitely reduces the heat island effect caused by urban places. Way to go BLU!

    By the way, I was able to see the inside of BLU’s condo building recently. Very well done.

  4. bridgett says:

    Having lived in many different cities, it was always nice to come to ST. Louis (where my grandparents lived, before I moved here) because it was so durned green. Not only the parks, but also on every street. When I post photos of my street on my blog, friends in Vermont and Australia and wherever are always surprised by how green everything is–“don’t you live IN the city?” they ask.

    In the past three years, our block has lost 3 American Basswoods, an ash, and 2 Sycamores to the storms of ’06 and to age/disease–for the most part, neighbors are filling in the tree lawn spaces with sensible trees. Tree lawn trees make a place feel closer, cozier, and of course, starting at the top of my street in mid-october and coming down the hill is breathtaking.

  5. Alan says:

    I especially like the trees in front of that ugly 7-11…a very nice improvement.

  6. Brian S. says:

    I don’t understand why people plant their own street trees when the city will do it for free, using a species that is well-suited for the location.

  7. PT says:

    Thanks for the post Steve. A subject near and dear to my heart. Chris, in your experience, how long did it take from initial request to planting?

    This is near and dear to my heart. I just had a conversation with my new Alderman about this on Tuesday!!
    Fresh 50/50 sidewalks and tree-lined streets can do wonders for a neighborhood….both city-funded projects that most people don’t even know about!!

  8. James R. says:

    Brian S. – Maybe it’s because the city uses so damn many sweet-gum maples! I’ve got those damn gumballs coming out my a$$!. OK, not really, but I’ve got a lot.

    I’ve only got one idea for using them so far, and that is using them to create charcoal for Terra Preta.

  9. Josh L. says:

    I have lots of those friggin spikey pods too. The city where I live picks up the bags if you gather them, but I keep hoping that there is some amazing art project that could be done with them. Or if somebody came by to grind them to mulch. I hear there is a special tool on the market for picking them up. http://www.coneivore.com/coneivore.asp

  10. Brian S. says:

    Ew, didn’t know that about the sweet gum maples. Fortunately, they did not plant one when I had them plant a new street tree in front of my old place.

  11. Josh L. says:

    Actually sweet gums are not maples, not that this is a big point. They are very sturdy trees that provide valuable shade, though they do create a bit of a mess.

  12. bridgett says:

    And aren’t they gorgeous in the fall (sweetgums, that is). I love mine, on the tree lawn. It’s big, healthy, provides beautiful shade, and the spiky little balls, well, I put them in my compost heap and they break down into mush.

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