Urban forestry conference opens sessions in Hoover

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

News staff writer

When the Alabama Urban Forestry Association opens its 20th annual conference today at Hoover Country Club, attendees are expected to come from a diverse range of professions, organizers said.

Registrants include horticulturists, landscape architects, developers, home builders, tree-board members, arborists and city leaders, said association Executive Director Shelley Green. The three-day event will include indoor and outdoor education sessions, professional arborist certification and grant-writing training.

Green said there is an awards lunch to honor individuals, businesses, governments and civic groups who have shown a willingness to protect what has come to be known as the urban forest. The City of Hoover has led the charge in encouraging a suburban forest, though there is still more understanding and rule-writing to be done, said City Forester Colin Conner.

"We've had some luck working with builders and developers on preserving the trees they have on their land or replanting in places where they've had to remove canopy," Conner said. "But there is plenty more work to be done."

The Auburn University graduate began working for the city in 1998 alongside city Landscape Architect Sharon Deep Nelson. The two are part of the Engineering Department and are responsible for reviewing development plans, inspecting construction sites and encouraging tree-saving ordinance compliance.

Today's conference agenda includes an afternoon tour of Hoover locations which Conner said epitomize the good use of tree cover. The city's 250-acre Moss Rock Preserve, construction on the Ross Bridge Resort and Spa, Aldridge Gardens and the renovated greenhouses outside Spain Park High School are on the tour.

Visits will also be made to residential neighborhoods where tree saving and planting have been part of the original design. Conner said stops are planned inside Trace Crossings, The Preserve and Riverchase subdivisions.

In one of the nation's first studies to show the economic value of trees, the Jefferson County Storm Water Management Authority released a 2003 report cataloging the tree canopy in the Birmingham-Hoover metro area and along the Cahaba River.

The State of the Forest study showed a 67 percent tree canopy coverage area, which was then plugged into a cost-model for how much stormwater was retained and how much air quality was improved by this green acreage. The annual savings amounted to $248 million a year in pollution and water-retention spending by public and private entities.

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