Critics Argue Raleigh Tree Program Fails To Take Root
Posted October 23, 2003
RALEIGH, N.C. — The City of Oaks launched an ambitious program last October to plant 2,000 trees a year. In its first year, the
planted 200 trees along neighborhood streets, but critics say the program is not getting much bang for its buck.
Jackie White does not mind watering the saplings in her front yard every day. After all, the city of Raleigh bought them, delivered them to her door and planted them for free.
"I think it's a great thing as far as keeping the community very nice. I think it should be looked upon as the city really does care about neighborhoods," she said.
White's neighborhood in southeast Raleigh is one of the first to participate in Neighborwoods, a tree-planting program hatched by Mayor Charles Meeker. In its first year, the program has put more than 200 trees in neighborhoods that did not have many.
Meeker said it costs about $25 to plant each neighborhood's tree, but critics of the program say the real cost is more like $500 a tree. They say what neighborhoods are actually growing is a bureaucracy.
"I think it's a little like the emperor without his clothes on, in the sense that we're trying to trick people into doing something magnificent for trees," City Councilor Kieran Shanahan said.
Shanahan said Neighborwoods is a drain on the budget. The city spends nearly $47,000 on salaries for two employees. Two hundred six trees have been planted, bringing the cost per tree to $227.
"We have critical needs in the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Inspections Department -- there's just a better use of money," Shanahan said.
The Neighborwoods program collects donations through city water bills. It has also funded by grants. The NeighborWoods program was created in 1992 in Eugene, Ore. Since its inception the program has been adopted in Olympia, Wash., Austin, Texas and Atlanta, Ga.