Work begins soon to preserve Schuster Slope’s urban forest

City of Tacoma crews will begin work next month to remove invasive climbing vines that threaten the health of the Schuster Slope green space. Work will take place between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays beginning Aug. 18 through October in the forested area above Schuster Parkway between South Seventh Street and Garfield Gulch. One eastbound lane of Schuster Parkway may be closed as needed when workers are present.

This steeply sloped 20-acre area is a valuable urban green space adjacent to downtown and the Stadium District. Invasive climbing vines such as ivy and clematis have become widespread, according to City officials. Left unchecked, the vines can smother and eventually kill the trees. The invasive plants also reduce the diversity of the forest, since they prevent the growth of the next generation of trees.

Crews will be cutting “life rings,” which involves removing a section of the vines around the base of the tree. This causes the vines in the canopy to die, which greatly reduces the extra weight on the tree. This action addresses the most imminent threat to the urban forest, and was identified as a high priority during public meetings last year.

The Schuster Slope project is a collaboration of Tacoma’s Open Space and Urban Forestry programs and supports the City of Tacoma’s goal to increase its tree canopy to 30 percent by 2030. In 2011, a University of Washington study using 2009 data calculated the Tacoma tree canopy at 19 percent.

This is the first step in addressing challenges for the Schuster Slope green space. Additional actions will be planned to continue restoring the area as a healthy habitat. More information is online here (click on “Bayside Trails).” The Open Space and Urban Forestry programs strive to plan, manage, protect and preserve the natural and planted vegetation in Tacoma for health and well-being of residents and visitors. Tacoma City Council added the Open Space Habitat and Recreation Element to Tacoma’s Comprehensive Plan in 2008. The Urban Forest Policy Element was added in 2010. These policies call for the preservation and enhancement of Tacoma’s urban forest and public green spaces.

Bayside Trail Map. (IMAGE COURTESY CITY OF TACOMA)