Ask anyone who resides in our neighborhood what makes East Dallas such an attractive place to live, and the answer will inevitably include “the trees.”

So it should come to no one’s surprise that one of the nation’s biggest tree lovers lives right smack in the middle of Lakewood. Last year, Dan Patterson was named chairman of the board of the National Tree Trust (NTT), an organization dedicated to maintaining and improving the country’s urban tree canopy.

Since its inception in 1990 (at the urging of Dallasite Trammel Crow), NTT’s accomplishments include raising more than $2.4 million to assist its partners in the planting of more than 10 million trees across the country.

“It’s a little-known fact that almost three-quarters of the original forest canopy that once existed in the Northeast is now back in place,” Patterson says.

Patterson’s involvement with neighborhood tree causes in the 1990s, along with his background in the finance industry earned him the role as NTT’s chairman.

Though the trust originally was awarded a grant of $20 million, that money is quickly running out, and NTT recently decided to switch its funding focus.

“It was clear if we didn’t establish fundraising efforts, we would spend all the money and go out of business. And we’re looking at doing this in perpetuity,” Patterson says. “So we wanted to look at a group of people who would write grant proposals and solicit donations. Because I’m in the finance business, they felt I was qualified to make that happen.

“Frankly, I’d be tickled pink to see this turn into an umbrella organization that would assist local tree organizations in getting closer to the goal of having a nationwide urban canopy.”

But just what is the big deal with planting so many trees?

“Trees are beautiful, produce oxygen, keep us cool, reduce pollution, provide habitat, are fun to climb and swing on, and can live to be 4,700 years old. Who or what else can do all of that?” Patterson says.

In fact, NTT’s Web site makes an even stronger case for establishing a widespread urban canopy, from the practical (“One hundred million additional mature trees growing in our cities could save us $2 billion in energy costs”) to the emotional (“Trees provide color, soften landscapes, screen unattractive scenery, and add beauty to both urban and rural landscapes.”)

Patterson points out that one of the reasons he loves living in our neighborhood is because of it’s just a few miles north of the nation’s largest hardwood urban forest: the Great Trinity Forest. In the White Rock Escarpment, the forest is home to 8,500 acres filled with about 30 types of mature trees including oaks, ash, pecans, maples, mulberries and hawthorns.

“It’s really fun to go down there,” he says.

But like everyone else, Patterson also loves the old trees here. In fact, he is so passionate about trees, he’ll even brag that he has the best “climbing tree” in the city in his own yard.

“The branches are close enough together that older kids can make it all the way to the top without a lot of effort,” he says.

For information about the National Tree Trust, visit www.nationaltreetrust.org. To help locally, contact the Dallas Historic Tree Coalition’s Linda Pelon, at 214-381-9324, or Dallas Trees and Parks Foundation’s Mike Bradshaw at 214-953-1184.


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