Rehoboth Beach officials are beginning a push to plant trees and raise awareness of trees through education and city-funded measures.
City arborist Liz Lingo said the parks department plans to plant 30 to 50 trees this year, with a focus on public land in Country Club Estates this spring.
“That is the least treed area in the whole city. Probably because of its history as a golf course, it didn’t have too much to begin with,” Lingo said. “We want to plant the better spots first, where there’s no overhead utilities and it’s wider.”
Twenty-five trees, mostly smaller flowering trees, were planted on public land this fall, she said. The city budgeted $30,000 toward trees, pruning and landscaping in the 2017-18 budget. Rehoboth has been a Tree City USA for more than 20 years running.
“We’re starting a little bit lower with the planting numbers. Just making sure we have the resources to maintain them before we put 100 in the ground,” Lingo said.
She said while it would save money to order 100 trees at once instead of 10 trees at a time, it costs about $300 to install, mulch and water a single tree. Lingo wants to start with a smaller number of trees to ensure solid growth.
Lingo said during the winter, city staff pruned all the street trees along Rehoboth Avenue and removed dead trees from Central Park and Deer Park on the north side of town.
“My belief is always that before you plant new trees you should maintain what you have,” she said.
This year’s budget also allows for three seasonal employees that will be shifted from the streets department to the parks department to help with pruning and watering trees and other landscaping work.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Lingo said.
She said Rehoboth’s beach environment can be very tough on trees with its sandy soil, salty winds and narrow rights-of-way.
“People might push for an oak, and that may be nice, but if you put that oak in a 3-foot spot, it’s only a matter of time before it busts up the sidewalk, busts up the curb and grows into the utility wires. A lot of thought goes into what tree goes where,” Lingo said.
One of her duties, since Lingo assumed the city arborist job nearly a year ago, has been to try to match up trees to the appropriate block and neighborhood.
“It creates a sense of space so that it doesn’t look random,” she said.
In addition, Mayor Sam Cooper created the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Trees, a 19-person committee that intends to provide education on trees and work with Lingo to coordinate volunteer groups to realize the city’s tree goals. The committee held its first meeting March 10.
Besides the new committee, there is also a 20-person volunteer group called the Ivy League, dedicated to cutting invasive ivy off trees in city parks, particularly Central and Deer parks. Lingo said once the ivy is cut off trees, the next phase will be to treat ivy on the ground.
“There’s a lot of interest in the city on trees, preservation, loss, planting and beautification effort,” Lingo said.
Although public lands are a somewhat easier nut to crack as far as planting trees goes, regulating private land is a bit more difficult of a balance. The city’s comprehensive tree ordinance, adopted in 2006, mandates three trees on a lot, among other measures regulating trees on private land.
“The city recognizes that green space is important, but at the same time, I think that they want people to have their dream homes. I think it becomes a tough balance, the main issue being we have really small lots. Where I came from before, the houses may have been the same size, maybe bigger, but they were on half-acre lots,” Lingo said.
The city has taken other measures to try to maintain open space, including passing a new zoning ordinance in July 2015 that was intended to shrink the size of new homes, particularly new homes with pools built for the rental market.
“We consider any tree that can be saved to be a positive thing, and that’s what the code tries to do,” Lingo said.