It’s being described by officials as “an innovative new pilot project in Downtown Louisville,” a “cutting edge initiative,” and “a brand new way to deal with old solid, surface paved parking lots.” It’s hailed as a major step forward in tackling Louisville’s stifling Urban Heat Island Effect. What is it? Trees.
Nine Allee Elm trees have been added to the sun-baked parking lot covering half a city block behind City Hall at Sixth Street and Market Street. The species was chosen for its hardiness to tough urban conditions—and it doesn’t get much tougher than this kind of parking lot.
What’s different about this project is that these trees were retrofitted into an existing parking lot. Diamond-shaped pits were dug out of the asphalt, so each of four parking spaces shares in the slight paved reduction. The plan was originally to install a special rubber porous paving around the tree (as has been done in sidewalk tree wells around Downtown), but on a visit in late March, the trees were simply surrounded by gravel.
Ken Herndon, Special Projects Coordinator for the Louisville Downtown Partnership (LDP), thought up the project, according to a press release. “Newer parking lots have regulations that require planting strips where trees must be planted to battle the heat island effect,” Herndon said in the release, but the LDP counts 381 surface parking lots in the city that carry no tree cover.
The hope it that owners of parking lots around Downtown can be convinced to add trees to their lots once they learn about the affordable idea that maintains the same level of parking and revenue.
The project was sponsored by almost as many agencies as there are trees. Those include the LDP, the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), the Division of Community Forestry, Metro Public Works, Metro’s Department of Sustainability, and the Parking Authority of River City (PARC). Installation took place at the end of February.
The new stand of trees is dedicated to the late Mike Houston, a longtime Louisville Metro Government employee, who worked with Brightside, the Louisville Zoo, Louisville Metro Public Works Open Spaces and PARC.
What do you think of the idea? While the ultimate goal would be to see these parking lots redeveloped, necessitating eventual removal of this sort of tree, it does look like a good interim solution. Louisville has more parking lots than could possibly be redeveloped in the near term. We’ll be rebuilding the city for a long while to come. Share your thoughts and where you’d like to see trees pop up in a parking lot around you in the comments below.