What do trees, public safety and play streets have in common?

On June 25, 2014 Mayor Ed Murray announced his Summer of Safety Initiative. The initiative sets up a coordinated approach to public safety across city departments that will mobilize resources to change our built environment, activate our streets and provide jobs for our youth and young adults. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is one of the key departments actively involved in the initiative.

Neighborhood  street before pruning work.

Neighborhood street before pruning work.

SDOT will focus on two key areas over the summer. The first will make changes to the built environment. This piece actively involves SDOT’s Urban Forestry Division.   The division is charged with overseeing the more than 40,000 trees in the public right-of-way (ROW) and maintaining the 123 acres of landscapes that relate to the transportation system. How do they work to improve public safety you ask? Well, through tree pruning, especially around street lights, and landscape management we can make a street more inviting to the public while providing few places for criminal activity. Much of the work completed by SDOT’s Urban Forestry Division is possible thanks to the Bridging the Gap transportation levy passed by Seattle voters in 2006. Funding from the levy has been key in allowing SDOT to prune more than 23,000 trees, plant more than 5,500 trees and maintain street landscapes across the city.

Seattle residents are invited to attend one of the remaining “Find it, Fix it” walks being hosted by the City. Each of these Community Safety Walks will help residents identify safety issues present in the built environment of Seattle’s neighborhoods. Department Representatives will be on hand to answer questions and serve as resources for residents.

Same street after Urban Forestry Pruned trees and cut back vegetation overgrowth.

Same street after Urban Forestry Pruned trees and cut back vegetation overgrowth.

  • July 8: Orcas and Martin Luther King Jr Way
  • July 22: Sound Transit tour, between Rainier Beach and Othello Stations
  • July 29: Rainier Avenue and Genesee
  • August 12: Rainier Beach

For more information on the Summer of Safety Initiative, please visit their webpage.

SDOT’s second area of focus this summer will be to help community members activate the public spaces around them. SDOT will work with residents to help them create a Play Street in their neighborhood. Under this pilot program, residents can apply to close one block of street to traffic so the kids (and adults) can have more space to play. Many cities across the country have Play Streets, including New York City. This program will give kids of all ages more space to be active and they support FUN for everyone! For information on how you can create a Play Street, please contact Diane Walsh at diane.walsh@seattle.gov, (206) 386-4575.

If you have questions or would like more information about the SDOT Urban Forestry Tree Program, please visit Urban Forestry’s website. In addition, if you have concerns about specific trees in your neighborhood, please call the citywide tree line at (206) 684-TREE.

If you would like additional information on BTG please visit their website.