• Tree advocate James Urban is the keynote speaker at the Texas Trees Conference to be held at the Eisemann Center in Richardson on Friday, Aug. 23. 

By Julie Thibodeaux

Like the Lorax in the Dr. Seuss classic, landscape architect James Urban will be "speaking for the trees" at the Texas Trees Foundation conference this week. “Designing Tree-Focused Resilient Communities” is the title of the summer conference to be held Friday, Aug. 23, in Richardson.

Urban, a nationally recognized leader in urban design, author and visiting lecturer at Harvard University Graduate School of Design, will speak on ways to design urban environments to be “tree-centric” and allow trees to thrive. 

“A single tree in an easy place can have a greater impact than a row of declining trees in difficult places,” says Urban, author of By the Roots: Healthy Trees and Soils in the Built Environment. 

According to Matt Grubisich, operations director and urban forester for the Texas Trees Foundation, there is an urgent need for developers, builders and planners to include trees in their initial designs to ensure healthy communities, not as an afterthought.

Too often, trees end up squeezed into the wrong places in unfavorable conditions, said Grubisich, who will also be speaking at the conference along with green builder Alan Hoffmann.

“Trees generally get put in last,” he said. “They need to be part of the planning process. They need to be looked at as a necessity.”

While the conference is primarily geared to architects, homebuilders, urban foresters and city planners, the Texas Trees Foundation is planning to grow its resources for homeowners this fall with a new website called TexasTreeSmart.org. The site, expected to take root in October, will offer tips for tree planting, selection and maintenance for residents.

In addition, throughout the year, the Texas Trees Foundation works with corporations and volunteers in Dallas, Tarrant, Denton, Collin, Kaufman and Rockwall counties to plant trees in public spaces. The nonprofit has planted more than 14,000 trees in 2012 alone. It operates a 7-acre tree farm at the Dallas County Community College District's Richland College with the help of volunteers.

“It’s a really great place for people to come out and get their hands dirty and learn about trees,” said Grubisich.

Cost for the conference is $75 and includes breakfast and lunch. Register here.

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Julie Thibodeaux covers environmental issues, green topics and sustainable living for Green Source DFW. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Contact her at Julie@greensourcedfw.org. See jthibodeaux.com.