Advocates say Huntsville at risk of losing urban forest


HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Huntsville is booming with growth, but in order to make room for new developments, some natural treasures are getting lost. Those treasures? Trees.

“Huntsville is growing and is going to continue to grow. Our City Leaders can help the city grow ugly or grow pretty,” Urban forest advocate Tom Thrailkill said.

He and Jerry Berg are two men on a mission to save Huntsville’s trees. Berg runs the “Friends of Trees – Huntsville” page on Facebook.

“A couple of years ago I started to get concerned because more and more I began to see trees getting cut down in my neighborhood and not get replaced,” Berg said.

The men say Huntsville’s growth is a good thing, but they’re not seeing an effort to replaces decades-old greenery lost with each new metro development. In short, they say we’re at risk of losing what they call our Urban Forest.

“We see development going on in Huntsville all around, so we need to start conserving infrastructure and establish trees as old infrastructure,” Thrailkill said.

The latest example is the now-empty site where the public housing complex Sparkman Homes once stood. It is home to Willow Oak trees the men estimate were planted shortly after World War II.

“They’ve had that long to grow and get to this stage of maturity. We counted, there are 40 trees here, plus or minus one or two and they’re all pretty much in a great state for that stage of maturity,” Berg said.

They hope pieces of land like this one aren’t sold off to developers, but instead, protected. The men are pushing city leaders to turn at least part of the space into a park for families living across the street and beyond to enjoy for generations to come.

“This location and this large number of beautiful trees in such a small area is such an amazing asset to the city, it seems so obvious, don’t wipe it out, save it. Use it. Transform it into something that will continue to be great for the population,” Berg said.

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