In Ocean Lakes, 100 more trees will soon be popping up in yards throughout the flood-prone neighborhood in southern Virginia Beach, each gifted at no cost from a local environmental group.
And in nearby parks and other green areas, dozens of volunteers recently planted nearly 400 oaks and bald cypresses, among other trees, with plans for another 500 to be in place next year. This roughly $25,000 initiative was a partnership between one of the biggest homeowners associations in the city and Lynnhaven River NOW, a local environmental organization.
“We hope it’s the first of many,” said Karen Forget, who leads the group.
The goal is to slow flooding and the tree planting is a part of a broader initiative to create additional networks of forests near at-risk areas throughout Virginia Beach, which is just now getting started.
The city, along with a host of volunteers, has been busy planting trees, too. It added 800 trees in Ashville Park, a nearby neighborhood in the southern part of the city that has drawn criticism over its inadequate stormwater system.
Councilwoman Barbara Henley said it would only be roughly four years until the trees start providing significant benefits. Henley, whose district includes the Ashville Park area, said the recent reforestation was a statement that the city is moving forward with its green infrastructure solutions.
So city officials and local environmentalists have turned to nature-based solutions, pitching them as a quick and inexpensive initial step in the city’s ambitious plans for how best to battle sea level rise and increasing flooding. It also aligns with the state’s priorities for how to prepare for more water.
Forget said it’s not realistic to think that planting more trees will eliminate all of Virginia Beach’s flooding woes, but that it can be done immediately, is cost effective and can have significant impacts in the short term.
One of the trees recently planting in Ocean Lakes (Courtesy of Karen Forget)
Though Virginia Beach has areas in need of trees, it has an unusual amount of forested land for a city of its size, with some 3 million trees. They provide more than $250 million in savings and benefits to Virginia Beach each year, roughly a third of which comes from stormwater runoff reduction, according to the city’s urban forest management plan.