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The City Journals

Holladay Tree Committee: Keeping Holladay tree-mendous

Mar 27, 2019 02:08PM ● By Justin Adams

No matter the season, Holladay’s thick tree canopy gives the community a natural and secluded feel. (Justin Adams/City Journals)

By Justin Adams | [email protected]

Most cities have a number of committees and councils tasked with improving some aspect of the lives of its residents, focusing on everything from public safety to public art. Holladay, however, has a committee that’s maybe not so common: a tree committee.

Holladay’s tree committee was founded in 2011 as part of the requirements to become an official “Tree City” through the Tree City USA program. There are 3,400 such communities across the country. Aside from forming a tree committee, applicants must “have a community tree ordinance, spend at least $2 per capita on urban forestry and celebrate Arbor Day.”

Dennis Roach, the current committee chair, joined soon after its formation. His passion for Holladay’s canopy came when he moved to the city in 2008. Both his home and the lots surrounding it were “totally wooded in, serene, cool, beautiful,” he said. But the lot behind his was scraped clean to make way for “about 30 houses stacked on top of each other.” It wasn’t long after that Roach saw a small ad in the newspaper for the newly formed tree committee and decided to look into it. 

Almost a decade later, it’s almost unbelievable what the committee has been able to accomplish, said Roach. 

First, the committee instituted a tree voucher program in 2015. Through the program, Holladay residents wishing to plant a tree on their right-of-way area (within 12 feet from the street) or along a waterway (15–25 feet from a stream or canal) can apply for and receive a voucher for a free tree. Roach estimates that between 200 and 250 trees have been planted in Holladay thanks to this program. 

More recently the committee worked with the Holladay City Council to pass a tree ordinance last year. The ordinance addresses the same kind of problem Roach saw in his backyard. 

“Developers are coming in buying older homes and bulldozing the lot clean, then putting in four or five homes where one or two used to be. Then they’re just putting a few sticks out on the parking strip and calling it good. They’re basically erasing the forest and replacing it with big housing. That’s not a long-term sustainable urban forest plan,” he said. 

After a lot of negotiation, the city came up with an ordinance which Roach said strikes a good balance between private property rights and the interests of the community.

“They came up with something that was very fair to developers and homeowners. But it puts that accountability into place to make sure that when you’re taking trees out, you’re putting a percentage of those trees back in. We’re starting to already get some forest protected from that being put in place.”

Coming up later this month is Arbor Day, the most important day of the year for the tree committee. This year, they will be celebrating by joining with students from Olympus Jr. High to plant at the fire station across the street. Anyone from the public who wishes to attend is also welcome. 

The committee is also working on plans to give away up to 200 tree vouchers to Holladay residents in coordination with Holladay’s 20-year anniversary of incorporation. 

The commitment to maintain and protect Holladay’s “urban forest” not only makes the community more beautiful, it’s also good for the environment, said Roach. “There are so many environmental benefits as far as pulling pollution out of the air, noise reduction, the heat island effect.”

Community members who would like to get involved with the tree committee are encouraged to attend one of their meetings, which take place on the first Thursday of each month at Holladay City Hall. The committee is particularly eager to find a Holladay resident with social media skills that can help manage their Facebook and Instagram pages. 

For more information, email the committee at [email protected] or search “Holladay Tree” on Facebook.