The City of Gainesville has announced a tree team to develop an urban forest management plan to act as a roadmap that will enhance the city’s current tree canopy, which is the layer of tree brush that covers the city when viewed from above, and maximize its ability to provide benefits for all citizens.

The tree team will also be working with Gainesville Regional Utilities on tree-trimming operations so certain areas won’t fall victim to tree limbs falling on power lines, affecting electricity during hurricanes and large thunderstorms.

Chip Skinner, public information officer for the City of Gainesville, said the team has been in planning since the city’s Blue Ribbon report, which called to put citizens at the front of the city’s decision making process.

“The team will be able to open up our eyes and put us on the flip side, into the citizens’ shoes,” Skinner said. “Instead of just being a city employee, we’re taking into account (citizens’) feelings and thoughts on different processes as well.”

Skinner said the biggest issue currently facing the urban forest is development along Archer Road and people who do not adhere to the current mitigation process of the city’s tree canopy, which calls for replacing trees that have been removed with new ones.

Despite these obstacles, Skinner said he feels the city is still doing well in terms of tree cover, as it has been considered  a “Tree City USA” for more than 30 years, a status given to cities that meet certain standards of urban forestry management.

City Arborist Matthew Mears said the city’s tree canopy offers a number of benefits to citizens like providing shade, clean air, ground water and even a sense of place.

“When I think of Gainesville, I think of its really beautiful and thick tree canopy, and I think it’d be quite a different place if there were no trees for sure,” Mears said.

Mears said community members can get involved with the development of the management plan by attending public meetings with the city’s Tree Advisory Board once a month.

“It’s really important for the community to get involved because the urban forest is a benefit to everyone and it affects everyone,” Mears said.

Mears and Skinner don’t know the set date for the meeting, but the date will be available on the city calendar when it is planned. The city calendar can be viewed on the City of Gainesville’s website at gainesville.legistar.com/Calendar.aspx.