By Sheila Lodge
I was much saddened by the negative comments on the City’s reaction to the unpermitted cutting down of trees on Paterna Road. Three were city owned trees on city property. One was in the front set-back of the property. City law protects its trees. All four required permits for removal.
Santa Barbara’s trees are protected because they are a vital part of its beauty, its clean air and its livability. They provide shade and a calming serenity.
In 1769 Santa Barbara was described as “dismal”. The Presidio was built in 1782 on a largely “treeless plain”. A visitor in 1793 said that there were “a few dwarf trees and groveling shrubs.”
Photo of Santa Barbara c. 1880 (photo courtesy of the Santa Barbara Historical Museum)
Some 50 years later large ornamental trees planted by new residents soften the no longer barren landscape.
Starting in the mid-19th C., noted horticulturalists imported plants from all around the world to this place where just about everything grows. Eventually Santa Barbara acquired its substantial urban forest. One-quarter of the city is covered by tree canopy.
Now whichever way you look, whether on a hill looking down or at street level looking up, you see mostly trees.
Even on parts of its main commercial street, State Street, you see mostly trees. They must not be taken for granted.
Today an estimated 320,000 trees grow along city streets, in parks and on private property, creating Santa Barbara’s urban forest. The urban forest touches the lives of Santa Barbara residents and visitors every day and profoundly enhances the city’s urban landscape as well as its economy.
Imagine what a loss it would be if the Italian Stone Pines on East Anapamu or the Magnolia trees on San Andres weren’t there. Imagine Santa Barbara without its urban forest.
Its quality of life would be dramatically and drastically reduced.
In addition to beauty trees bring many other benefits:
• Their leaves filter the air by removing dust and other particulates. They absorb carbon dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide and give off oxygen. They clean the air we breathe. • Tree roots capture rainwater and remove impurities, reducing creek and ocean pollution.
• They reduce noise levels.
• Their shade reduces the use of air-conditioning by as much as 25%.
• They reduce soil erosion.
• They increase real estate values.
• Their shade prolongs the life of asphalt.
• Workers with views of trees are generally more productive, less stressed and happier.
• Post surgery patients with views of trees recover more quickly than those without.
• People simply are nicer where there are trees; their presence reduces domestic violence.
I hope everyone will do everything they can to maintain and enhance our urban forest. We all will benefit.
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