City of Lodi shade tree program a cool success
Mar. 12—A new program focused on providing shade for residents and helping them save on energy costs has been suspended until further notice due to its overwhelming popularity.
Last year, Lodi Electric Utility partnered with Tree Lodi to create the Lodi Shade Tree Program to provide free trees and planting instructions to eligible customers in an effort to help keep their homes cooler during hot summers and reduce energy bills.
Working with nine nurseries in the region, Tree Lodi was able to secure 500 trees that were all secured by Lodi Electric customers within weeks for the pilot program.
"We're very happy we had a huge response from prospective customers," Tree Lodi president Steve Dutra said. "We're hoping to continue the program next year, but there's only so much money budgeted. We anticipate the city will be able to fund it in the next fiscal year."
Dutra said the first cycle of the program, which launched last fall, cost $71,500. There is some money left over from the first round if planting, and it has been earmarked for administrative costs and expenditures, he said.
To participate in the program, Lodi Electric customers received a pullout in their monthly bills explaining the benefits of shade trees.
Residents were instructed to apply online at www.treelodi.com, and the only requirement to participate was being a Lodi Electric customer.
After completing an application, Tree Lodi forester Bill Nantt would schedule an at-home meeting, survey properties and provide advice as to where to plant the tree and what kind would be best.
Each customer was able to reserve as many as three five-gallon trees, as long as their properties could accommodate them, Dutra said.
Michelle Dominguez was the first resident to receive shade trees in December at her Pacific Avenue home.
"I'm concerned with the number of trees being removed throughout town," she said of her reason for applying. "I feel some of the more recent trees being planted are not going to grow over 15 feet tall, and shorter trees just don't provide shade. I think that in 20 or 30 years, we won't have any tall trees in Lodi."
Dominguez received three trees, and said because there are several power lines around her house, they will be somewhat smaller than others on her property and around the neighborhood.
When the program is made available again, Dominguez said she would definitely encourage neighbors and friends in town to consider applying for shade trees.
"I think it's a great program," she said. "I'm happy the program was able to get support from the city and nurseries, and I think once word got out there was an overwhelming demand. It shows that people know the importance of trees, not just because they provide shade, but because of their benefit to the environment."
Those benefits, Dutra said, include helping to produce more oxygen, as well as improve the aesthetics of the community and increase property values for many residents.
In addition, planting trees in particular areas of your property — where it might block direct sunlight from glaring though windows — can naturally cool a home.
That means residents don't have to rely on air conditioning as much, which in turn can lower electric bills.
"Our motto is 'The Right Tree in the Right Place,'" Dutra said. "Out project team did a great job, both individually and collectively, and in some cases we surpassed goals we had set for the program. The city should be happy, and the city council should be satisfied with the final result."
Tree Lodi hopes to expand the program in 2022, pending funding by Lodi Electric Utility in the 2022-23 fiscal budget, which should be approved by the city council by June 30.
For more information, visit www.treelodi.com.