ST. ALBANS CITY — There are more than 1,700 trees in St. Albans City’s parks and lining its streets. Collectively, they bring $194,000 in reduced heating bills, improved air quality and higher property values to the city each year, according to a 2015 tree inventory by the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program (VUCFP).

The inventory also found that there are more than 1,200 places in the city where new trees could be planted.

Currently, the city has two tree planting programs, Chip Sawyer, the city’s director of planning and development, explained to the city council Monday night. The neighborhood sidewalk project includes funds for replacing trees removed during the replacement of sidewalks in the city’s neighborhoods.

The process of removing the old sidewalk and installing new concrete can sometimes damage the roots of older trees, said Sawyer. In addition, trees planted too closely to the sidewalks can cause them to heave. In those cases, trees are removed, although in some places the new sidewalk can be curved around existing trees.

“The sidewalk project does its best to put trees back,” said Sawyer.

Since 2016, the city has included an item in the budget for planting trees in the city. In 2016, 15 were planted in neighborhood greenbelts – the green space alongside the street which is in the city’s right-of-way – and five downtown. In 2017, 19 replacement trees were planted in Houghton Park and one downtown. This year the city will replace two dead elms in Taylor Park and add 18 trees to the greenbelt.

Where the street trees are planted is based upon requests from residents, places where trees have been lost to age or disease, and locations identified in the VUCFP inventory, said Sawyer. “Whenever a tree comes out, we try to put a tree back,” said Sawyer.

Residents have expressed some frustration with tree removal in recent years. “One of the first things that happens when a community starts managing its trees is that trees come down,” said Sawyer. Unhealthy, aging trees, particularly those which pose a safety threat, have to be removed.

Read this full story in Wednesday’s edition of the Messenger.