Finding the right shade: Goodyear plans to add trees to shade walkable areas

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Expect to see a greener, shadier Goodyear in the coming years.

The city is planning to find ways to add trees to pedestrian and bike paths as well as areas where people gather to make it more comfortable and safer to get around Goodyear during the hot summer months. While plans focused on adding trees for natural shade, adding more shade structures to pedestrian areas will be an option as well.

A study of the city’s shade found it fell well below recommended state and national standards.

The main way to increase shade along sidewalks and walking paths will be to strategically place trees to maximize shade for pedestrians.

“It’s about putting the investment where it makes the best benefit, for shade and for the residents and everything else instead of just requiring a whole bunch of trees,” said Development Services Director Christopher Baker during a staff presentation to City Council last month.

Mayor Georgia Lord also noted the aesthetic benefit that trees and other plants bring to the city.

“I just think that when you drive down Bullard and all the yellow blossoms are out… it matches our logo, the sunshine look. It just says ‘Goodyear,’” she said.

Georgia Lord
Georgia Lord

The Maricopa Association of Governments recommends 50% shade coverage as a minimum standard, or “safe” designation, for pedestrian routes and gathering spaces, 60% shade coverage for a “comfortable” standard and 75% for a “destination” standard for major gathering spaces or spaces with a lot of elderly pedestrians. The study, completed over the summer, of shade on a sample of corridors and paths throughout Goodyear, found developed areas within the study had only 16% shade coverage. Staff suggested the “comfortable” designation as a reasonable goal for the city. The United States Forest Service recommends 30% shade coverage for arid regions within the U.S., such as Goodyear. The current coverage within the areas sampled is 10%.

The plan

Staff is suggesting short-term, mid-term and long-term goals to help the city attain these shade standards, mainly via trees. Council did not take an official vote during the informative meeting but gave staff consensus to proceed with its plan.

One of the short-term goals was to place trees strategically along paths to maximize shade.

“A major takeaway from the study, which really codified what we hear Parks (staff) talking about quite often is ‘The right tree in the right place.’ That means there’s consideration for the spacing availability, the type and size of the tree, and its proximity to paths,” said city planner Christian Williams.

Other short term goals are to add trees along paths as the city completes capital improvement projects, update the city’s landscape standards — which staff is in the beginning stages of doing — and to consider becoming a Tree City USA, which is a program by The Arbor Day Foundation. To be recognized as a Tree City USA, a city must have an Arbor Day observance and proclamation, a tree care ordinance, a tree board or department and spend at least $2 per capita on a forest program. Staff said Goodyear currently spends $8-9 per capita on trees.

The city’s mid-term goals are to pursue any grant opportunities for planting trees that come up, be more proactive with developers to add more shade structures, to work with the city’s Communications department to educate residents about the best practices to get shade from trees, and to be more aggressive about including tree replacement after trees fall over in the city’s asset management plan.

Mr. Williams noted that many of the city’s existing structures in the areas of the shade study are more for artistic or aesthetic appeal than shade functionality.

Mr. Baker noted the city’s new landscape standards would have replacement requirements, but a tree would not be required to be replaced if it was not required to be there in the first place.

Councilwoman Laura Kaino noted this can be an issue with HOAs, when trees along sidewalks or in yards that are required to meet a shade standard don’t get replaced after falling over, usually from monsoons.

“That is always the challenge, because it all starts out all good and well to pass the city requirements and after that it tends to decline,” she said.

Laura Kaino
Laura Kaino

The city’s lone long-term goal for shade is to look at how to incentive homeowners and private developers of already built areas to add shade along paths.

The plans to add trees are being worked on in concert with the city’s Water Conservation Committee. The city already has a recommended tree list that will be further refined as the city’s landscape standards are updated.

Trees can go a long way to help the local environment. The shade study found 6,626 trees in the sampled area, providing 45 acres of shade. These trees remove 2,047 pounds of air pollution per year, provide 190 tons of oxygen per year and remove 71 tons of carbon dioxide per year, the study found.

Trees can also help reduce stormwater by absorbing rainwater. When rain is not absorbed into the ground because it falls on asphalt or concrete, it collects dirt and debris as it runs down the storm drains, polluting local bodies of water. The 6,626 trees absorbed in the study intercept enough water each year to fill 1,101 swimming pools.

Mark Carlisle can be reached at mcarlisle@newszap.com or found on Twitter @mwcarlisle.

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