Trees

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Bellevue is proud to be a "city in a park," with 2,800 acres of parks and open space. The forests in our parks help keep our waters healthy and provide homes for wildlife. It's the trees in our neighborhoods, though, that make this city truly special. Two-thirds of all trees in Bellevue are on residential land.

Bellevue's estimated 1.4 million trees provide health and economic benefits, increase property values and traffic safety, reduce crime, filter out air pollution, limit stormwater runoff and improve water quality. Trees are also essential to the protection of salmon habitat because they provide shade along streams and preserve water quality by preventing erosion.

Tree Canopy Management

Between 1986 and 2006, Bellevue’s tree canopy experienced a 20 percent loss. As of 2007, the citywide tree cover was 36 percent in the city. The Comprehensive Plan includes a goal of 40 percent urban tree canopy in Bellevue. An action plan is also underway for meeting this target across the many different land use types where tree canopy can exist (e.g. right of way, commercial, residential and public lands).

The city has been working to preserve and maintain our tree canopy in several ways.

  • Maintains 15 acres of natural areas each year
  • Achieved target for maintaining 72 percent of urban forests in a healthy condition (target of 70 percent in class 1 or 2 condition)
  • Joined King County’s 1 Million Tree Campaign
  • Updated the Clearing and Grading code to require a permit for the removal of more than five trees over three years
  • Conducted a thorough inventory of trees in the rights of way and parks

You can show your support today with a free We Love Our Trees yard sign!  Click on the tabs below to request a yard sign and to learn more about Bellevue's programs to grow the city's tree canopy. 

Show your support for Bellevue's urban forest with a free We Love Our Trees yard sign. Take the lead on conservation in your neighborhood.
 

These signs are available for pickup at City Hall by emailing jewing@bellevuewa.gov with the subject line "yard sign pickup."  

Stay tuned for more Tree Tours starting in the fall of 2019. 

Your trees do a lot to take care of you, from keeping your air clean to reducing the risk of flooding. Do something in return to keep your neighboring trees healthy! Here is a list of resources on different aspects of tree care. If you are unsure of anything or think your tree might be a hazard, contact an ISA-Certified Arborist for a professional, trustworthy assessment.

Planting a New Tree
Mulching
Pruning
Avoiding Utility Conflicts
Tree Health Problems

Trees begin with their roots. The roots reach down into the soil, holding the tree tightly in place. But the roots hold the soil in place too, preventing erosion and reducing the risk of landslides.

Moving upwards, the trunk of the tree is the heaviest, most impressive part, and most of the mass is made from carbon dioxide. Trees take in CO2​ as they grow, and they transform the greenhouse gas into the building blocks of wood. In this way, every ring on a tree combats climate change.

The leaves to even more. Leaves are where the tree takes in air in order to get carbon dioxide. Leaves take in all the air, though, not just the CO2. The leaves end up trapping pollutants, too. Inside the leaf, pollutants break downover time in to harmless pieces.

Think about the last time you stood under a tree to stay dry in the rain. The leaves catch the rainfall and add hours to a raindrop's journey to the earth. This reduces flood risk, because floods happen when rain falls too fast. Think about a bathtub: a shower can run for hours while a firehose would cause problems in seconds.

When you put all the parts of a tree together, though, it takes on whole new benefits. Trees reduce stress, improve focus, and have even been shown toincrease property values. Next time you see a tree, take a moment to thank it for all its hard work.

Have you always wondered what a certain tree was? Maybe you saw it along the sidewalk downtown, with fan-shaped leaves that turn a brilliant yellow in October. Or maybe it was along a trail, with deep green boughs and soft red bark.

Now you can find out using our Bellevue Tree Guide! Every trip to a park is better when you know what you're looking at.

The City of Bellevue is committed to stewarding the 2,500 acres of forest, playfields, and community gardens that make up our park system, along with the 8,000 acres of tree canopy in the city.

A 2017 assessment found that 37% of the City is covered by tree canopy. In the updated Comprehensive Plan, the City set a target of 40% tree canopy cover, as recommended by leading national experts American Forests. By achieving this goal, we can expand on the health and economic benefits that trees provide.

  • Planted over 1,050 trees in city parks and open spaces (2016)
  • Actively maintained 15 acres of natural areas each year
  • Exceeded target for maintaining 70% of forests in healthy condition (72% of Bellevue forests are in a class 1 or 2 'healthy' state)
  • Joined King County's 1 Million Tree Campaign
  • Updated the Clearing and Grading code through the NPDES effort to require a permit for the removal of more than five trees over three years

To get involved with tree preservation in Bellevue, check out the many volunteer opportunities in our parks, or plant a tree on your own property using the Tree Care resources found in the tabs above.

We have been measuring our tree canopy using aerial imaging roughly every 10 years since 1986. Up-to-date data on tree canopy cover and impervious surfaces allow the city to make informed decisions about stormwater management, land use and the benefits trees provide.

A 2017 tree canopy assessment provides key insights in Bellevue’s forests. While there has been a decline in tree cover since the first assessment in 1986, the decline has leveled off since 2008. Two-thirds of all the park land in Bellevue is forested, but a majority (65 percent) of the city’s tree canopy area is in suburban residential areas. The city is working to conserve existing trees while finding opportunities to plant more throughout Bellevue.

Tree Canopy Assessment Fact Sheet 

The Right Tree for Your Yard

Planting the right tree in the right place ensures a safe and beautiful property for decades to come. Some key factors to bear in mind are size, site condition, and your own preferences.

When choosing a location for your tree, plan for the size it will become, not the size it is when you get it. Larger trees should be planted well away from buildings and power lines, while smaller trees can be planted closer to a home. Different species also prefer wetter or drier conditions, so consider the soil as well as surrounding structures. Most importantly, plant a tree that you will love. Whether it's for beauty, privacy, or fresh fruit, pick a tree that will make you happy year after year.

Planting

Now that you have a tree and location in mind, it's time to plant. Call 811 before you dig to make to make sure there are no buried utilities nearby.

Once you know a site is safe, dig a hole that is as deep as the root ball and 2-3 times as wide. Gently remove the tree from the pot and place it in the center of the hole, being careful to handle it from the bottom and not by the trunk. Brush dirt away from the roots and loosen them, as a good spread of roots will help your tree grow strong.

Start filling in the hole with dirt. Make sure of two things: first, that the trunk is vertical, and second, that the root flare is just barely exposed. The root flare is where the first large root extends from the trunk, and burying it can lead to rotting. A guide to proper planting can be found here.

Caring For a Young Tree 

Young trees need three things: water, mulch, and pruning. 

Water your trees twice a week in the dry summer months. A new tree can need as much as 15-20 gallons of water, enough to wet the soil two inches below the surface. Water below the canopy but not right up against the trunk, which can lead to rotting. Additionally, you can water in the cooler morning or evening hours to conserve water.

Spreading two inches of mulch around the base of the tree also helps it thrive. Mulch helps reduce water loss from evaporation as well as keeping down weeds that may compete with the trees. When mulching, avoid piling up a "mulch volcano" around the base of the tree.

Pruning is about more than making your trees pretty; it also helps them thrive. Removing weak of competing branches early ensured that your trees will grow into a healthy, pleasing shape. The Bellevue Parks Department has created a guide on pruning techniques.

Caring For a Mature Tree

Mature trees take less care than young ones, but you can't ignore them entirely. In hot, dry weather, they need the same watering that young trees do. Mulching can help regulate temperature and moisture as well.

Mature trees should be regularly inspected by a certified arborist. They will be able to tell you if your tree is healthy or if it needs treatment. Pruning is important for older trees, as lower branches will often need to be removed as they become less useful. Only a certified arborist should removed branches from mature trees, as they know how to do it safely. If you are concerned about tree hazards, they are the best people to ask.

Property Questions

If you are unsure whether a tree is yours or belongs to the city, refer to your property title report or email rightofwayuse@bellevuewa.gov or parksweb@bellevuewa.gov to help determine whether a tree is on public or private property.

For more information about trees, visit the City's Development Services department site.

Bellevue remains committed to maintaining its "city in a park" character. However, steady development over the last 30 years has resulted in a loss of trees. In 1986, the tree canopy was estimated at 45 percent and by the year 2007, it had declined to 36 percent.

To accommodate growth over the coming decades, Sound Transit is building a light rail line through Bellevue and Puget Sound Energy is upgrading or adding electrical transmission lines. These projects will all result in some loss of tree canopy. The city is requiring mitigation to restore that tree canopy.

East Link Light Rail

To mitigate for the loss of vegetation in Mercer Slough Nature Park where the light rail guideway is being built, Sound Transit has agreed to extensive replanting. The city has worked collaboratively with Sound Transit to minimize to the greatest extent possible impacts to critical areas and their buffers as well as provide visual relief from the light rail facility. Details

Energize Eastside

Puget Sound Energy is applying for permits for this project, which includes the construction of a new substation at Richards Creek and an upgrade of approximately 18 miles of transmission line from Redmond to Renton, through Bellevue. PSE is applying for construction permits. Tree removal and mitigation will be determined as part of the permit review. Details at PSE Energize Eastside.

Lake Hills-Phantom Lake Transmission Line

PSE plans to build a new electrical transmission line between the Lake Hills and Phantom Lake substations. According to PSE, the project will increase overall system reliability and allow for better use of existing facilities for customers in the Lake Hills neighborhood.

The project involves the estimated removal of 295 trees on city-owned property. PSE will plant new trees and install landscaping to restore the impacted areas along the route and mitigate for any impacts to critical areas and/or critical area buffers. The exact number of trees to be replaced is to be determined through clearing and grading and right of way use permits issued by the city.

Per conditional use permit requirements, PSE will contribute $856,740 to the city to compensate for the value of the city-owned trees to be removed. This money will be placed in a fund to help pay for landscape restoration and mitigation materials, including plants and irrigation, required for the project.

Additional Project Information