Kirkland’s Planning Commission reviewed the city’s tree code in the summer and fall of 2018, and will recommend changes next year. File photo

Kirkland’s Planning Commission reviewed the city’s tree code in the summer and fall of 2018, and will recommend changes next year. File photo

Changes to Kirkland tree code aim to preserve canopy

The city has lost 270 acres of tree canopy since 2010, when the code was last updated.

Kirkland’s tree code, last updated in 2010, will receive another look in 2019.

The city’s Planning Commission has been reviewing the code, and on Feb. 14, 2019, will discuss proposed revisions. Trees provide numerous public benefits, which is why communities protect and maintain urban forests through tree codes, according to a city newsletter.

The purpose of the 2018 tree code revision is to support the goals established in Kirkland’s Comprehensive Plan and the Urban Forestry Strategic Management Plan, to address issues and challenges that have arisen since the last tree code revision and to update the code so that it is effective and practical to use.

When the tree code was first adopted, its goal was to achieve an overall 40 percent tree canopy cover citywide. That goal has since expanded through updates to the Comprehensive Plan to include achieving a healthy and resilient urban forest.

The city uses three performance measures to determine urban forest health and resiliency: canopy cover (the 2-D outline of tree leaves as seen from above), species diversity (more variety lowers the risk of losing entire tree populations) and uneven-aged trees (so that old and new trees provide an even succession of benefits over time).

A new urban tree canopy assessment shows there was a slight decrease in Kirkland’s canopy cover from 40 percent in 2010 to 38 percent citywide in 2018. This decrease amounts to about 270 acres of tree canopy — the size of two Juanita Bay Parks. The decrease in canopy cover may not be surprising given the unprecedented development that occurred in Kirkland during this timeframe, according to the city.

When looking at the pre-annexed city boundary, canopy cover increased from 32 percent in 2002 to 36 percent in 2010, then dropped to only 35 percent in 2018, showing that within the same boundary area, Kirkland’s canopy cover didn’t drop dramatically in the last eight-year measurement cycle.

Even though a city within 75-100 percent of its canopy cover goal is considered in the “optimal” range of performance, Kirkland still wants to look at ways to slow the loss of canopy cover. The city is taking that into account while considering changes to the tree code.

See www.kirklandwa.gov/treecodeupdates for more.

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