Trees play an important part in the story of where we live. In addition to being beautiful, the presence (or absence) of a tree can substantially impact the economics, social health, and land property values of a community. Peter Kageyama in his book For the Love of Cities discusses attachment and engagement styles, which directly impact how likely we are to invest in our own communities. A positive attachment style generally impacts market confidence, or the currency each neighborhood is traded on. Beautiful places that have trees are generally loved and have committed stewards. Unsurprisingly, on average a tree adds $8,870 to an adjacent house and $12,828 to all the nearby houses. In fact, the positive impact of growing trees may extend outside of economics into more complicated social dimensions—as research indicates that the presence of trees in urban settings is linked to lower crime and healthier babies. Planting trees is environmentally advantageous, economically beneficial, and it increases the social capital of a place by improving the quality of life.
Critical regionalism is a progressive approach to design that seeks to mediate the global and local languages of place. It’s through a critical regionalist lens that we created our Great Trees for Kansas City list, an analysis of over 300 trees in the Kansas City area. Through this analysis, we’ve compiled some of our favorite native species in the Kansas City area, including Bur Oak, Post Oak, American Linden, and Swamp White Oak. Native plants serve a critical role connecting the places we live to the interconnected natural systems that are hard at work in ways few of us ever notice. And native species often perform better in their regional ecosystems: on average they live longer, suffer from fewer diseases, perform better in challenging landscape settings (parking lot medians, for example), and are deeper connected with a critical regional food web.
At the firm, we approach our landscape design and planning work from a contextual and regional perspective. The reasoning is both economic and environmental. As we continue to experience the effects of climate change on our earth and on our society, it’s our responsibility as designers to understand how we can be better stewards of our environments. This responsibility is not only for our own protection, it’s for the protection of future generations and the health of the planet. A native approach to regional landscape design not only instills a sense of place, it creates an environment where native species quietly work in an interconnected way to support the health of our neighborhoods.