By Bobeth Yates

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The city of Miami Beach is looking ahead in hopes of solving some of their climate change concerns.

Part of the city’s new plan calls for a reduction in the number of palm trees, adding instead more canopy trees.

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“As we’re thinking about planning for our city, green infrastructure is going to be a part of that solution.  Our tree canopy is that first piece of green infrastructure,” said Elizabeth Wheaton, Miami Beach’s environment and sustainability director.

Wheaton said they have earmarked $5 million for a citywide reforestation plan that will not only change the area’s skyline but also help the environment.

“We’re in the process of going through a major reforestation effort, with a goal to plant 5,000 trees by the next 10 years,” Wheaton said, “That is one major step in adding more canopy into our green spaces, our parks, as well as our roadways.”

She said planting more canopy trees will help with carbon reduction, absorb more rain water and help provide shaded streets. But the plan has come under fire because it calls for the reduction of palm trees.

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“We would actually go from 57% tree canopy of palm trees, which we currently are, to 25% by the year 2050. A lot of that would be adding shade trees, which can be very positive, if done correctly. But, it also calls for the removal or relocation of 1,500 palm tree,” said Vice Mayor Steve Meiner.  “The palm trees an iconic, beautiful tree. And it’s a symbol. It’s actually in the symbol of Miami Beach and I think such a reduction from 57 to 25%, I’m concerned could have a serious negative impact on our cultural, historical and economic brand.”

But environmental advocate Dave Doebler said the benefits far out way those concerns.

“In general, I’m very supportive of the total Urban Reforestation Master Plan. They have really done a lot of work to identify the trees that we have, the trees that we need,” he said. “So these new trees that they’re putting in all around the city are going to be trees that absorb a lot of CO2 and also absorb a lot of storm water.”

While city officials acknowledged the plan does call for the removal of about 1,000 palm trees, they say they have 22 projects in the works that will place most of those palms in other areas, for a net loss of about 170 palms.

“The plan is not to take away the palms rather it’s to incorporate shade canopy, so we have the proper mix of shade canopy and palm trees,” said Wheaton.

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A special workshop will be held next Tuesday on the matter. Residents will be able to get additional details on the project as well as provide public comments.