Urban Forestry Program
Snohomish’s urban forest is an important resource to the City and its residents. Trees provide a multitude of physical, environmental, aesthetic, and economic benefits. The Urban Forestry Program is a comprehensive guide to all things plants and planting in the city. The plan will inventory existing tree coverage and identify areas where increased coverage is needed.
The Urban Forestry Program includes several distinct plans and projects, described in more detail below. The first step was a tree inventory, which was completed in the spring of 2023 through a grant from the Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program. An interactive map can be viewed by clicking the link below.
The Urban Forestry Plan was then adopted by the City Council in 2023. An update to the City's tree code will then be completed in 2024 and 2025. This update is expected to establish a tree mitigation fund and an additional plan for how the funds will be utilized. Plant species for all work within the right-of-way will be included to ensure the right plants are being located in the right area to maximize the benefits of the plants and for low maintenance, environmental sustainability, and visual appeal. It will work in conjunction with the Complete Streets Project to require attractive streetscapes that are easy to maintain.
Why Urban Forestry?
Trees are a valuable community asset, enhancing our parks and open spaces, cooling our neighborhoods, capturing air pollution, intercepting stormwater runoff and improving safety in our community. Growing and caring for our city’s urban tree canopy is no small task; a healthy tree canopy is the result of proper planning, management and community involvement.
The urban forest plays a key role in mitigating urban heat islands, reducing electricity bills, improving air quality, reducing flood impacts, improving overall emotional and psychological health and improving physical health.
Taken together, these benefits help save an estimated $44 million annually in reduced healthcare, emergency response and energy costs.
The City was awarded the Community Forestry grant from the Department of Natural Resources in order to conduct an inventory of all trees in the public right-of-way as well as in select parks and City properties. Trees located on private property will not be included. Basic information about each tree have been collected and mapped. This includes species, diameter, height, and a basic health assessment.
The information in the tree inventory established baseline conditions of the City’s urban forest. The baseline was then used to develop the Planting Prioritization Plan, a vital element of the Urban Forestry Program. This plan identifies areas with unequal access to trees, so that future planting efforts can be focused in those areas.
The health assessment information learned from the tree inventory is classified into different categories: good, fair, poor, critical, and dead. This information will determine the schedule for maintenance activities. Moving forward, ongoing management will be based on the classification.
Complete Streets is a transportation policy and approach that emphasizes safe, comfortable, and convenient access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transit. Streets and trails are included in the Complete Streets program. The urban tree canopy is an integral part of safety and comfort for mobility and users of the City streets.
All of the planning efforts to inventory, prioritize, and coordinate urban forestry in the city will culminate in an update to the tree code. The existing code is Chapter 14.240 SMC. Tree regulations are combined with fences and retaining walls, as well as development standards for site landscaping. The tree retention standards comprise a small portion of the chapter, and are not easy to understand or administer.
Policy decisions will need to be made about how to regulate and process tree-related management proposals, and the public will be asked to weigh in. Information about future meetings will be available on this page, so stay tuned and be sure to participate in the discussions.
The Park & Forestry Board will be working on this project in 2024. Their meetings are held on the fourth Wednesday of each month and are open to the public. Visit the Agenda Center for more information on how to attend those meetings.
Funding to support this project was provided by the State of Washington Department of Natural Resources Urban and Community Forestry Program.