Community Forestry Assistance Grant Success!

by Stacey Ray, Associate Planner, City of Olympia

'Edge' trees that can post hazards
“Edge” trees may be hazardous and are often within striking distance of new homes, (there is evidence of root rot in this stand).

Over 15 years ago, the City of Olympia adopted an ordinance to preserve small stands of mature trees in neighborhoods. These stands of trees are called tree tracts and when new neighborhoods are finished being built, the tracts are turned over to the new Homeowners’ Association (HOA). There are now dozens of tree tracts throughout Olympia.

Over time, as original homeowners from a neighborhood moved away or HOA boards quietly disbanded or stopped meeting, City staff began receiving more and more requests to investigate and prune or remove trees in neighborhood ‘greenbelts.’ We quickly suspected that either the new homeowners didn’t know how to care for their tree tracts, or they didn’t even know they owned a tree tract. Either way, homeowners needed a guide for how to take care of their leafy, green neighbors, and ensure that those trees were preserved and would continue to provide community-wide benefits for future generations.

In 2011, the Urban Forestry Program, with grant funding from the DNR Urban and Community Forestry Program, reached out to HOAs to better understand their needs, and what we found confirmed our suspicions. Any new outreach campaign and guide would need to include information for HOA’s on how to:

  • Identify whether or not a neighborhood had an established HOA
  • Locate the tree tract
  • Be good long-term stewards of their trees
  • Hire and work with tree care professionals

Taking what we found from our interviews, we developed a colorful and easy-to-read guide for HOAs called “Tree Tract and Greenbelt Stewardship:  A Guide for Homeowners’ Associations.”  HOAs can use the guide to proactively and confidently address safety and liability issues, follow city regulations, remove invasive species, recruit volunteers, and create a long-term management plan.

In addition to providing a guide to being good stewards of their trees, a significant goal of producing the guide was

Tree tracts are no longer “natural” environments; they need to be managed in perpetuity.

to help homeowners better understand the environmental and community benefits of their tree tract, and why it was established in the first place. Most of the urban forest is privately owned and cared for, so HOAs should feel encouraged and empowered to plant trees, restore native vegetation, volunteer, and think creatively and responsibly about investing in the long-term future of their piece of Olympia’s community forest.

Follow this link to the Tree Tract and Greenbelt Stewardship guidebook. or visit Olympia’s Urban Forestry webpage and look under “Featured Information.”

Contact Stacey at sray@ci.olympia.wa.us or 360-753-8046