If you take a look at the Freeport Blvd Transportation Plan, including Appendix F Design Layout, you will see that most of the existing trees are preserved. But there is no information about new trees, not in the diagrams, not in the text. In fact, the only text mention of trees, other than existing trees, is in the Community Vision (page 20, 23 in the pdf), where it says “4 IMPROVE SHADE AND COMFORT: Enhance the walking and bicycling experience along the corridor by integrating street trees to provide shade and comfort from the sun and rain”. Certainly, that is the community’s vision, but it does not seem to be the city’s vision. If it were, the plan would have addressed trees.
Given that a major objective of the plan is to make Freeport Blvd more walkable, the lack of trees and mention of trees is concerning, to say the least. When questioned about trees at the January 18 Active Transportation Commission meeting, city staff said two things: 1) we aren’t the experts in trees, so we didn’t include them, and 2) tree information will come later in the design process.
This is a classic case of planning and engineering gaslighting. The story beforehand is always, well, it’s too early in the planning process to consider that. The story later is that it is too late to consider that element of the plan, we’re already past that, the decisions have been made. Every plan goes that way. It is true that this plan is only the first step in design, and there will be more detailed design to come, but when you don’t plan for trees from the beginning, you get a roadway with too few trees. Or no trees.
Almost all the existing trees are in median strips at a few locations along the roadway. Trees in medians have some value. They make the road look prettier, they slow traffic to a slight degree, they shade pavement and slightly reduce the heat island effect. But they are not even as remotely useful as trees along sidewalks. What Freeport Blvd needs is trees adjacent to sidewalks, not median trees. But the city has nowhere reserved space for them. So they won’t be there.
Next post is about where to put the trees, adjacent to sidewalks.