Urban Canopy Conservation and Management
The City of Charlottesville takes an active role in the preservation, protection, expansion, monitoring, and education about our urban forest. This page provides information on a variety of programs, policies, studies, and efforts related to urban forest management.
The Charlottesville Parks & Recreation department is responsible for planting, maintenance, and removal of trees on public properties including parks, schools, street right-of-ways and public buildings.
The City has an appointed a Tree Commission to help advise staff and council on urban forest management efforts and policies.
City Ordinances contain information associated with trees and tree preservation in numerous sections. For more information please email the City Forester.
Tree Inventory and Interactive Dashboard
In January of 2018, Charlottesville Parks &apmp; Recreation initiated a project with the goal of creating an inventory of all the trees that exist on public property within the City of Charlottesville. The foundation of the inventory is a GPS field survey conducted in 2008 of all the existing trees at that time. This 2008 survey recorded the coordinates and several other attributes of Individual trees located in parks, schools, and right-of-ways. Trees in larger forested areas were estimated through the use of plot samples, and while we still retain the plot sample records, they do not appear in the 2018 inventory. In addition to the 2008 field survey records, all of the trees that have been planted on public property since 2008 have been plotted using GPS location equipment and have been assigned many of the same attributes as the trees identified in the 2008 field study. The result of these efforts is a comprehensive inventory of the individual trees (excluding forested areas) that are planted on public property, and fall under the care of Charlottesville Parks & Recreation.
The second phase of this project was the development of the interactive dashboard below, which allows the user to explore the tree inventory at the location and attribute level. Hovering over any of the bars or map points will provide additional information, while clicking on any of the bars will filter the entire dashboard by that particular attribute. For an even deeper exploration of the inventory, the user can click multiple bars to filter the dashboard by multiple attributes. Click the ‘Reset’ arrow at the bottom to un-filter the dashboard.
Tree Conservation Ordinance
Charlottesville has adopted a Tree Conservation Ordinance to allow special trees to be considered for additional protections. Trees may be nominated in one of four categories:
- Heritage tree means any tree that is believed to have notable historic or cultural interest;
- Memorial tree means any tree that is a special commemorating memorial;
- Specimen tree means any tree that is believe to be notable by virtue of its outstanding size and quality for its particular species;
- Street tree means any tree that is believed to grow in the street right-of-way or on private property as authorized by the owner and placed or planted there by the local government.
In addition to the resources on this website and in City parks, the City of Charlottesville helps educate the public in several other important ways:
The Jefferson Park Avenue Utility Friendly Arboretum showcases tree species that fit under and above utilities without needing pruning and that do not impact the utilities around them. Visit the median along JPA to see trees and learn more about how you can plant similar trees on your property.
Charlottesville has received Tree City USA Recognition since 2006 and received a "Growth Award" in 2010 for its efforts to further improve its forestry management.
The City of Charlottesville holds an annual Arbor Day celebration.
Urban Canopy Reports
The City of Charlottesville has made strong commitments to natural resource management through its adoption of the 1998 Sustainability Accords, the Comprehensive Plan, the 2003 Environmental Sustainability Policy, the pursuit of a citywide Environmental Management System, and the US Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which specifically identifies the maintenance of healthy urban forests as an effective supporting action.
In response to public requests pertaining to the protection and management of urban trees and the urban tree canopy; representatives from the Parks & Recreation Department, the Department of Neighborhood Development Services, and the Environmental Sustainability Office in Public Works have been developing strategies that will enable the City to better protect our natural resources.
The City completes a canopy assessment approximately every 5 years, which is paid by in part by USDA Forestry grants. These efforts are designed to place the City in a position to manage its forests and trees in a sustainable and renewable manner, and provide for a codified program that meets the needs and values of our community.
Since 2004 to 2014, the citywide canopy has decreased by 5-7.5% (350-500 acres of tree canopy removed). In 2009 the city had a 47% overall tree canopy. By 2014 the canopy had been reduced to 45% overall (2015 Council presentation).
2015 Urban Tree Canopy Report »
2015 Plan-It Geo Presentation »
The City has also undertaken an Urban Forest Assessment of trees on public lands including parks, schools, cemeteries, city buildings, and street medians. The assessment helps identify the age, diversity, condition, and maintenance needs of the city's trees and forested lands.
Urban Forest Management Plan
An Urban Forest Management Plan (May 2009) has been developed that supports the City’s historical commitments, is strategic in structure and will enable Charlottesville to be proactive in the stewardship of our natural resources, both public and private.
Best Management Practices
The City of Charlottesville has created a guide for homeowners, developers and others related to the care and preservation of trees:
Best Management Practices for Tree Preservation, Transplanting, and Removal
The City also publishes a Standards and Design Manual of specific requirements and specifications for work built in public areas of the City.
Managing Invasive Species
Invasive Plant Species Assessment (February 2007) of public lands was conducted to determine the extent, type, and management options for exotic trees, vines, and other plants that threaten our urban forests and landscapes. Invasive plant species management techniques for various invasive species are included in the report appendix.
Charlottesville Vegetative Debris Management Plan »
Downtown Mall Trees
The City of Charlottesville commissioned James Urban and Keith Pitchford to develop an assessment of trees on the Downtown Mall. These trees, many of which are now mature willow oaks, were planted in 1976 as part of Lawrence Halprin’s design for the new Downtown Mall. As the trees have grown, some have grown too close together and challenges have arisen with regard to proper maintenance and assuring the long-term survival of the trees, as well remaining true to the historic design. The report addresses these challenges and the City is pro-actively planning to manage the Mall trees in coming years by developing specific recommendations for each group of trees.
The 2016 Downtown Mall Tree Assessment Report »
Tree Commission and Charlottesville Parks & Recreation staff to assist homeowners and developers when selecting and planting trees.