Although many of us know Water Works Park as a natural playground for people and animals, the Park’s primary mission is to serve as the first water source for Des Moines Water Works in meeting the drinking water needs of 500,000 central Iowans. To do that, Des Moines Water Works’ forefathers had the insight to acquire land upstream of the Raccoon River to protect its water source. Today, Des Moines Water Works staff maintains a large urban forest that makes up the 1,500 acres of Water Works Park.
Urban forests play an important role in supporting and improving the ecology in urban areas. A tree’s shade and beauty contributes to the community’s quality of life and softens the often hard appearance of streetscapes and urban landscapes. Public trees, when properly maintained, provide economic, environmental, and social benefits, including temperature moderation, reduction of air pollutants, energy conservation, and increased property values.
A recently completed inventory of the urban forest in Water Works Park is the first phase of a multi-year effort led by Tree Des Moines to assess the health of trees along capital city streets and parklands.
The recent assessment, conducted by Davey Resource Group, included trees, stumps and planting sites within the mowed and manicured areas of Water Works Park. Collectively, the trees included in the assessment have an appraised value of $6,227,597, and provide environmental benefits valued at nearly $370,000 a year.
“The results of the Water Works inventory show just how much value trees add to our city and neighborhoods,” said CJ Stephens, president of Tree Des Moines, a volunteer-driven nonprofit dedicated to protecting and expanding the urban forest. “This proves that every dollar we invest in our urban forest is money that comes back to us in so many critically important ways, both economic and environmental.”
The inventory outcomes are important, and implementation of the maintenance recommendations will enhance public safety and the benefits trees provide to the community.
The recently completed tree inventory is a key-planning tool that will help Des Moines Water Works establish a data-driven program for tree care, and aid in more accurately determining budget, staff, and equipment needs.
The partnership with Tree Des Moines also comes at a pivotal time for Water Works Park.
“Through Trees Des Moines’ leadership, Davey Resources performed a professionally assessed and digitized collection of data involving our Parks’ publically enjoyed trees,” Bill Stowe, Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager, said. “This asset inventory for a cornerstone of the Water Works Park is particularly timely given our interest in better managing all aspects of Water Works Park, and working with the Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation in realizing the Master Plan to drive Water Works Parks’ future improvements.”
Tree inventories are about more than simply counting trees. As Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie points out.
“The City of Des Moines, along with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and environmental experts at Iowa State University, agree that a tree inventory is essential in moving forward with plan to maximize Des Moines’ tree resources through proper management,” said Cownie.
The assessments provide detailed information about species, health, and maintenance needs, among other information. A tree inventory is also needed to help Des Moines combat current threats to forestry health such as emerald ash borer, oak wilt and bur oak blight. Over the next few years, these threats are expected to significantly reduce Des Moines’ tree canopy, which carries implications for quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods.
“The Water Works Park inventory proves it is worthwhile to keep pushing ahead with plans to inventory city-owned trees in Des Moines,” Stephens said. “Trees are vital green infrastructure, and knowing more about what we have in Des Moines will help us do a much better job of managing the resources well into the future.”