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KC Parks and Rec division developing city’s first urban forest master plan

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Forestry Operations Division of Kansas City Parks and Recreation just won a $25,000 Tree Resource Improvement and Maintenance grant.

It will allow the department to develop the city’s first Urban Forest Master Plan.

The Davey Resource Group is doing consulting for the plan. The group is collecting inventory data to analyze the trees in Kansas City. It will make recommendations on how to protect, grow and enhance the urban canopy.

Between Kansas City’s rough weather and invasive species attacking trees, the city's trees are declining quickly.

"Just from our forestry operations alone, we are removing about 3,000 or more trees per year," said Kevin Lapointe, the forestry officer for Kansas City. "Now with the emerald ash borer, that’s adding about another thousand trees a year."

Those figures don't include trees removed from private property, which account for 95 percent of trees in the city.

"The plan gives us a road map of what we have currently as far as our urban forest in Kansas City. It gives us what we want, how we can get there and how are we doing along the way," said Lapointe.

That could mean adding news trees in certain parts of Kansas City and replacing aging trees.

The master plan will also identify funding opportunities and opportunities for how to work with the private sector. Educating the public on the importance of trees will be a big part of the plan.

"They don’t like raking the leaves or picking up the twigs or whatever it is," said Lapointe. "We have to educate people that the value trees provide far outweighs the minor inconveniences, things like water interception and storm water run off. Trees intercept an amazing amount of water. Thousand of gallons a year on some larger trees."

The Forestry Operations Division said the plan will take between 15 months and two years to finish.

"It’s being tied pretty closely to the Kansas City Tree Champions, a group that’s being organized by Bridging The Gap, as a nonprofit in connection with the city," said Lapointe. "It is going to a gathering of professionals, business people, community people, to come together to promote the urban forest master plan and engage the community."