Sandy celebrates 21 years of being a Tree City USAMay 08, 2023 01:04PM ● By Sarah Morton Taggart
Britt Bingham, the Urban/Community forester for Sandy City, says this zelkova on the corner of Highland Drive and 9510 South might be his favorite tree in Sandy. (Sarah Morton Taggart/City Journals)
Trees are critical to the health and vitality of a city, according to Britt Bingham, the Urban/Community forester for Sandy City.
At the recommendation of the Parks and Recreation Department, the Mayor and Sandy City Council proclaimed May 20, 2023, as Arbor Day in Sandy City. As part of the proclamation, Sandy’s residents and visitors are encouraged to become active in promoting and preserving trees.
“Sandy has just exploded and grown and we’ve lost a lot of our natural trees,” Bingham said. “Even though a majority of them are not the best species that we could find, they still help out their environment.”
Quality tree species are also in danger. In February, the Planning Commission prioritized efforts to save five mature London plane trees as a condition for approving plans for the Cedarwood Estates Expansion at 575 E. 11000 South. The trees are struggling to survive after years of underwatering.
“I think it’s critical to the development that the trees remain,” said David Hart of the Sandy Planning Commission. “It’s the one amenity that the residents have expressed concern about.”
Trees absorb the sounds of traffic, reduce energy costs, increase property values, improve mental and physical health, and mitigate the effects of climate change, according to the Arbor Day Foundation. Trees are also good for business.
“In surveys and tests that have been done at malls and shops, the more trees you have, the longer people will shop,” Bingham said.
So what kind of trees should people plant? Bingham says it depends. “Our motto in the tree industry is ‘the right tree in the right place.’”
Factors to consider include the amount of sunlight available, the type of soil, and how much room there is for the tree to grow. Personal preferences are also important. Do you want an evergreen tree, one that flowers in the spring, or one that will provide maximum shade in the summer?
Trees that can thrive in harsh heat include zelkovas, golden raintrees and honey locusts. One of Bingham’s favorite trees is a zelkova on the grounds of Alta Canyon Sports Center with spreading branches that tower over the neighboring Bradford pear, a species that is vastly over-planted.
“We try to diversify our plantings because if you start getting too much of one species, then some type of disease, insects or whatever can wipe them out,” Bingham said. “For example, the Dutch elm disease. That was devastating.”
Bingham is especially concerned about the century-old spruces lining the eastern edge of the Sandy Cemetery along 700 East that are suffering from a common fungus.
Aside from underwatering, disease and pests, Bingham says a tree may be doomed if it is planted too deeply in the ground.
“So what happens is that a tree with a trunk has a trunk flare, and people bury that trunk, which is obviously not natural,” Bingham said. “And so they will grow adventitious roots (roots growing from the trunk). When those roots come out, they don’t know which way to go so they will actually encircle the tree. It basically chokes itself out.”
Bingham also recommends being mindful of where trees are planted.
“We, as a society, do our landscaping completely wrong,” Bingham said. “I always like to tell people that if you go out in the forest, what do you see? Trees. You don’t see grass. You go out in a meadow. What do you see? You see grass, and maybe one or two trees here or there.”
Bingham encourages residents to group plants by how much water they need or learn about the conservation programs offered by the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District to water their yards more efficiently.
Sandy has maintained Tree City USA status for more than 20 years. The city also has a Heritage Tree program that catalogs trees that are uniquely large, a significant species, or have historic importance. More information about the Heritage Tree program, including the nomination form and an interactive map, can be found at sandy.utah.gov/807/Heritage-Trees. λ