“A tree has roots in the soil, yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.” -Wangari Maathai

On Nov 2, the Los Banos City Council approved the City’s first Urban Forest Management Plan to create a foundation for tree care in the city for the next 50 years. While the Plan targets city-maintained trees, the Urban Forest is comprised of all trees in the city, both native and planted.

Trees help to clean the air, conserve the soil and water, reduce heating and cooling costs, improve physical and mental health, and bring nature close to where we live. Trees beautify the community and add millions to property values.

The Los Banos commitment to a healthy urban forest is exemplified by the city’s recognition as a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation every year since 1991, and this commitment is facilitated through programs such as the Tree Commission and efforts to replace trees throughout the city.

The Los Banos Parks and Recreation Division began the task of initiating the creation of the City’s first Urban Forest Management Plan in Nov 2019. Awarded a grant by CAL Fire in May 2020, the city was able to partner with Plan It Geo for consulting services to complete the plan with all expenses reimbursable. In Feb 2021 Plan It Geo began inventorying every city-maintained tree in Los Banos, accounting for nearly 13,000 trees along streetscapes and within the city’s parks.

Through a series of staff interviews, data analyses, program assessments, gap analyses and community input Plan It Geo presented drafts of the Urban Forest Management Plan to the public at Tree Commission meetings over the course of 2021-2022.

Plan It Geo found that Los Banos presently has a tree canopy covering approximately 13.6 percent of the city. The Plan recommends a tree canopy coverage goal of 30 percent by the year 2065 which can be achieved by planting 875 trees among private and public areas.

The Plan identified that structural pruning and crown cleaning were the most common areas of need for tree-care among public trees, and it addresses this issue by developing a pruning cycle maintenance schedule. The Plan summarized that approximately $350,000 per year, or $29 per tree, was recommended for care of public trees. A proposed Master Street Tree list and Master Parkway, Accent, and Median Tree list is also included as an appendix.

Los Banos joins neighboring cities such as Tracy, Merced, Fresno and Atwater who have recently completed Urban Forest Management Plans. The Urban Forest Management Plan can be accessed on the Parks and Recreation page of LosBanos.org under the “Upcoming Projects and Master Plans” tab.

Trees are one of the city’s most valuable assets and the completion of the Urban Forest Management Plan will create a framework to maximize the city’s tree care resources.

Joe Heim

Los Banos Parks & Recreation - Operations Manager