Trees don’t only belong in forests and woodlands. They can grow and thrive among us, in our gardens, streets and public spaces, if we help them. The special type of tree I would like to champion in this blog is not of a particular species or genus, it’s of a place: The ‘street tree’.
There is no widely accepted definition of a street tree, but what I mean by the term is a tree that is growing within a public highway, including the carriageway, footpath or verge.
Good street trees can do a lot for us:
- They help to improve air quality due to the production of oxygen and filtering of air-borne pollutants.
- They add character and beauty to our engineered streets and create a ‘sense of place’.
- They improve human health and well-being.
- They encourage biodiversity by providing habitats and food sources for a variety of creatures.
- They increase property values and promote investment and economic development.
- They can help us adapt to a changing climate.
We shouldn’t think of roads as just for getting from A to B. They are places where we live and work. Successfully integrating trees into the built environment is, however, a challenge. It requires a cross-disciplinary approach throughout a long process, from design to delivery, to years of maintenance.
There are very few examples of good street trees on the Isle of Man. By ‘good’, I mean a mature tree that is: thriving in the urban environment without causing damage to surrounding infrastructure, resulting in conflict with neighbouring home, business owners, or users of the highway; well managed so that benefits are maximised and disbenefits are minimised; and, well suited to its setting in terms of canopy size and character.