Tree City USA
The Arbor Day Foundation has designated Little Elm a Tree City USA community (4 years: 2011-2014) for its commitment to urban forestry. The recognition honors Little Elm for its modern landscaping standards, aggressive tree preservation regulations, and prioritization of trees in its construction projects.
Trees are known to increase property values, lower energy bills, improve livability of neighborhoods, enrich the appearance and image of the community, enhance economic vitality of businesses, create communal and social opportunities, generate oxygen, reduce air and noise pollution, filter runoff, prevent erosion, screen undesirable views, provide habitat to urban wildlife, and mitigate the urban heat island effect.
The Town of Little Elm has aggressive tree preservation regulations that prohibit the indiscriminate clearing of property for development, protect and increase the value of residential and commercial properties, encourage the preservation of mature trees, and enhance the image of and quality of life within the town.
Chapter 106 (Zoning) of the Code of Ordinances governs tree preservation issues. However, a quick summation of primary contents follows:
- All trees 6" DBH and greater, regardless of species, are protected in Little Elm.
- Mitigation, in the form of a fee paid into the Town's tree fund or planting replacement inches, is required per the Tree Valuation Schedule (106-112) and Tree Valuation Formula (106-113).
- Trees required of associated development projects cannot be considered as credit for mitigation purposes.
- A tree removal permit is required prior to issuance of any development related permits.
- Staff has final approval authority on all tree preservation and mitigation issues. The Planning & Zoning Commission has appellate jurisdiction through its role as official Tree Board for Little Elm.
Little Elm celebrates Arbor Day the 3rd Saturday of every October because fall is the optimal time to plant trees in Texas. The ground is still warm enough to allow roots to grow and expand, and the cool air decreases stress on the tree, resulting in an increased chance of long-term survival. Fall plantings also allow the tree more time to prepare for next summer's heat.
It is the customary observance to plant and care for trees to gladden the heart and promote the well-being of this and future generations. Trees are a source of joy, renewal, and fill our lives with awe and wonder, in addition to being a renewable resource.
It is important to choose a species of tree appropriate in size for the location and site, taking into consideration its mature height and canopy. In addition, ensuring that the tree is correctly installed can reduce the chances of disease and death. Planting a tree, or several trees, on your property is a great long-term investment.
Bronze Leaf Award
In 2013 the Cross Timbers Urban Forestry Council presented Little Elm with a Bronze Leaf Award for its commitment to urban forestry initiatives. The award is given annually to recognize groups, individuals, projects/programs, or municipalities that make significant and outstanding contributions to community forestry in the 17 county region.
Being a Tree City USA community is a prerequisite to receive a Bronze Leaf award, and Little Elm was specifically honored for its exceptional landscape requirements for new development, prioritization of trees in its CIP projects, aggressive tree preservation regulations, Arbor Day tradition, and its commercial site integrity program which ensures the permanent maintenance of landscaping.
- Did you know that Little Elm's zoning ordinance requires single-family homes to have 2 large canopy trees per lot?
- Neighborhoods with mature trees sell better, so be sure to select trees accordingly. Often, a fast-growing tree is favored, but that is a poor standard for selecting a tree because all fast-growing shade trees have some form of fatal flaw that will result in premature death, frequent disease, weak structure, or some other form of nuisance.
- Have crepe myrtles? Don't top them. This destructive practice is known as "crepe murder" and permanently ruins their natural form in addition to leaving behind lasting scars on their trunks. Contrary to outdated advice, topping crepe myrtles does not improve blooming, but it does butcher what can be a very attractive specimen plant when maintained properly.
- Stop mulch volcanoes! Mounding mulch on a tree trunk suffocates and weakens the tree. Responsible landscapers do not mound mulch against the trunk.
- Generally, a tree should not be trimmed above its "crotch" area. Pruning too high, creating a "lion's tail" or "carrot top", severely weakens a tree, looks bad, and is prohibited by ordinance. Do not participate in this misguided practice.
- Don't bag your leaves, compost them. Compost is one of the best ways to amend your soil and mulch. Most importantly, composting keeps organic waste out of the landfill and returns valuable fertilizer to the earth, and it's easy.
- It is critical to remove all stakes and guy wires if your tree has been planted longer than 18 months. Stakes and guy wires, if left alone, will choke and eventually kill your tree. Many new home owners forget to remove them until it is too late.
- It is important to note that not all trees sold commercially at home garden centers are safe to plant in our clay soils. It is much better to choose a quality tree with a long shelf life that will add value to your home and by choosing a local independent nursery for your stock. As the old adage says, "You can judge a lot about a person's character by what type of tree he plants, whether it's for himself or his grandkids."