Maisie Hughes Department of Parks and Recreation POH Testimony

Testimony of Maisie Hughes
Director of Design and Advocacy
Casey Trees
February 10, 2017
Performance and Oversight Hearing DC Parks and Recreation
Before the DC Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment

Good afternoon councilmembers. I am Maisie Hughes, Director of Design and Advocacy for Casey Trees. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

Parks are vital to modern urban living. As urban economies continue to thrive, Americans have raised their standards when choosing where to live. In response, cities like Atlanta, Denver, and Oklahoma City have made notable investments in urban parks to attract and keep new residents and meet environmental imperatives. Other cities are following suit, noting that green spaces have long been touted as a solution to climate change. However, the science also is clear on the human benefits of improved park space. Access to nature has been linked to a decrease in overall crime and juvenile crime in particular. In addition, green spaces improve resident health and contribute to a robust economy.

Like Atlanta, Denver and Oklahoma City, in recent years DC has worked to improve our local parks. The District’s Sustainable DC Plan includes both a citywide 40% Tree Canopy Goal and a nature goal to “provide parkland or natural space within a 10 minute walk of all residents.” The Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016 established an Urban Forestry Advisory Council to ensure coordination between the District agencies responsible for achieving the District’s tree canopy goal. Mayor Bowser’s Canopy 3000 initiative is helping the city to remove barriers to tree planting by coordinating the District’s tree planning efforts with federal agencies and local nonprofit partners. DPR’s Play DC Master Plan – Vision Framework led to the renovation of over 33 DPR facilities.

Since 2004, Casey Trees has worked with the District to plant over 2,500 trees on DPR land. We commend our District partners for their efforts to re-tree our city parks, but there are still challenges (and opportunities) ahead. The challenge: 87 DC parks have less than 20% canopy – a full 20% below the city’s 40% goal. The opportunity: DC parks have the possibility of supporting over 60% canopy.

To this end, DPR has been a good partner in facilitating further park tree plantings. DPR’s staff has created a pre-approved tree species list to clarify what is acceptable to plant, and has been very helpful in planting plan review to expedite the process. In addition, thanks to the mayor’s Canopy 3000 efforts, Casey Trees is poised to plant 700 new trees in DC parks and schools in the next fiscal year, and we hope to plant at least half those trees in the city’s parks.

In closing I’ll stress that a significant untapped opportunity exists to add trees to DC’s parks, not only to beautify neighborhoods in all eight wards, but also to help the city achieve its 40% tree canopy goal. Casey Trees is proud to be a partner of DPR, and we look forward to working with them on this important effort.

Thank you for the opportunity to testify.

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