It took two years to plan and two weeks to complete.
Now drivers will be welcomed into Tacoma by nearly 2.5 acres of young trees planted along Interstate 5.
“I’ve lived in Tacoma my whole life,” said Michael Carey, an environmental specialist for the city. “It’s really nice to see that improvement.”
The 78 saplings were planted along the right of way near the 84th Street overpass to enhance Tacoma’s gateways and bring more trees into the city.
The city planted the trees as part of a plan the City Council adopted in 2010 to increase Tacoma’s canopy — land covered by foliage or trees — to 30 percent by 2030.
In 2011, the University of Washington calculated the city’s canopy was 19 percent.
More trees help control temperatures, manage storm water and clean the air of pollutants.
The city and the state Department of Transportation picked right of ways along I-5 for the planting project because they account for 26 percent of Tacoma’s land but only 9.2 percent of its canopy.
City crews, Deputy Mayor David Boe and members of the Washington Conservation Corps planted the first sapling April 6. The rest were planted over the next week.
“I thought it went very well,” said Carey, who helped develop the $5,000 project.
Money from the city’s Surface Water Utility Fund offset the expense, which was eased by city crews planting the saplings, Carey said. They came from a city-owned nursery and were specifically grown for projects like this.
Once the samplings fill out, the area will have coverage for decades. The trees will hit maturity in 15 to 20 years and continue to grow.
A pilot program in 2013 helped prepare for this year’s project, one of many Tacoma is planning to bring more trees to the city, Carey said.
Now that the team understands the planning and steps involved, more projects like this one are soon to come, he said.
Between now and 2030, Carey and his team hope to complete three planting projects each year. The next location is yet to be determined.
The first two projects should making future plantings easier and faster, Carey said
Tree-planting efforts will make Tacoma more beautiful for years and help the city be more sustainable, he said.
“The decisions we are able to make will have an impact on future generations,” Carey said.