Planting trees not only cools down urban centers, they can reduce crime

Sep 13, 2021, 2:03 PM
Park city trees...
Park City will give 200 trees to residents to plan. Photo Credit: Canva Images.

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City officials are looking at ways to cool down what is known as the “Urban Heat Island” effect, UHI. The effect happens when cities are much warmer than surrounding suburban and rural areas because of the concrete and steel.

A report from The Environmental Protection Agency stated even a couple of degrees of extreme heat can affect people’s health negatively. One or two degrees can increase breathing problems, heatstroke and heat exhaustion. 

Trees can lower the surrounding ambient temperature by two degrees, or more if there is a breeze. They could keep Salt Lake City from having another ‘hottest summer ever recorded.’

Laura Bandara, Salt Lake City’s Urban Designer, said that’s one reason for the push to plant 1000 trees a year in the city. Especially in areas that don’t have very many, like the west side of Salt Lake City.

Trees can reduce crime and improve health

“Shade trees lower the temperature on sidewalks and have the added benefit of not have to repave asphalt as often,”  Bandara said. “The trick is to get the right type of tree in the right areas.”

Another benefit is that trees add a sense of community and lowers aggression. Bandara stated, “Studies show neighborhoods with trees have reduced crime.”

Bandara also cited research from Vibrant City Labs which shows hospital patients who look out a window onto trees and grass are discharged much earlier than patients who don’t see any vegetation at all.

All of this is part of the “Urban Forest Action Plan” the city put together. Bandara said the Salt Lake City council will be voting on it soon.

Diane Pataki, a professor of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Utah said, “There’s a lot of different impacts of trees on climate, but the most direct one is just intercepting sunlight.”

Trees aren’t the only thing that will cool a city down

Another option several other cities are using is green roofs; Where gardens and trees are planted on top of roofs to help reduce the sun’s rays heating a dark surface. But that can cause problems in Utah.

“In the deep soil, green roofs have to be irrigated frequently because the soil is very shallow and if people want to use green roofs in this kind of environment, they just have to be aware that they’re going to require water,” Pataki said.

Bandara concurred and said tree roots at street level can find groundwater, so they don’t require as much human intervention. “Our climate is so dry, trees and grass will need much more water on a rooftop where the soil isn’t as deep,” she said. 

However, city officials are looking into another way to help cool down the “Urban Heat Island” effect. They include white membranes on rooftops and reducing the amount of asphalt.

Residents can help cool down their surroundings

City officials are asking residents not to remove trees from the parking strips. Bandera said, “Well-meaning people are pulling up all vegetation thinking they are saving water. But in reality, they are adding to the heating, especially if they replace grass with rocks.”

“Xeriscaping, using the appropriate water-wise plants, is not the same as Zero-scaping where people pull out all the vegetation,” Bandera said.

Other strategies Salt Lake City is pursuing to reduce Urban Heat Island impacts:

  • The new airport redevelopment program chose to construct a 5 level parking garage in an effort to reduce surface parking and mitigate UHI impacts. They also use white membranes on rooftops.
  • Public Utilities has investigated the impact of synthetic turf on UHI and have found it to have negative impacts on a variety of urban environmental concerns. As a result, we strongly discourage the use of synthetic turfgrass and prohibit it in park strips.
  • Street redesign projects include some strategies to reduce the amount of asphalt, including roadway narrowing.
  • Engineering is testing cool pavement coatings.
  • We also have an option for redevelopment to meet stormwater management and drainage requirements by providing a site design that reduces the number of impervious surfaces.
  • The RDA is looking at incentivizing green roofs.

Today’s Top Stories


WWE Essential...
Zoe Sottile, CNN

John Cena breaks Make-A-Wish record after granting 650 wishes

Actor, wrestling legend, and perpetual meme subject John Cena has completed a new accomplishment: breaking the world record for most wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
2 days ago
Utah Republicans are looking to ban transgender surgeries and other hormone-based care....
Mark Jones

Utah to receive additional $4.9 million from FEMA in response to COVID-19

FEMA has announced Utah will receive an additional $4.9 million to help with the housing costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
3 days ago
BYU tracking...
Simone Seikaly

BYU researchers learn importance of tracking, in fitness and other goals

BYU researchers found that tracking an activity helps to increase (or decrease) that activity.
5 days ago
Adam Small

National health panel recommends anxiety screenings for adults under 65

Anxiety screenings were recommended for adults 19 to 64 by the task force to help combat the under-detection of anxiety disorders.
6 days ago
The little league player that was critically injured after falling off a  bunk bed is now fighting ...
Randall Jeppesen and Mark Jones

Easton Oliverson family files lawsuit against LLBB and bunk bed makers

A lawsuit has been filed by the family of Easton Oliverson against Little League Baseball and the makers of the bunk beds he fell off and injured his head just prior to the Little League World Series.
7 days ago
University of Utah Health...
Lindsay Aerts

U of U Health says contraception need higher for both women and men in the wake of Roe decision

University of Utah Heath says demand for birth control is up and they have a new clinic hoping to get women faster access.
7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Planting trees not only cools down urban centers, they can reduce crime