Keeper of the Canopy

Making Sure the Streets of Coral Gables Stay Tree-Lined is Brook Dannemiller’s Job

By Mike Clary

Summer 2018

Coral Gables is known for its foliage. It has been named a Tree City USA for more than three consecutive decades by the National Arbor Foundation. That designation means the city meets the core standards of sound urban forestry.  

“From the city’s inception 93 years ago, George Merrick’s vision was to have a community of tree-lined streets,” says Brook Dannemiller, director of the city’s public services division responsible for those trees. “And that vision has not wavered.”  

The city is so obsessed with its canopy of green that it maintains a My Tree Keeper website (, where every one of its 38,175 trees in public spaces (streets and parks) are catalogued. They can be individually located on the website, which includes an interactive map that lets you see when a tree is scheduled to be removed from or planted in front of your house.  

The idea is to replace aged or damaged trees with younger, more vigorous ones…

Maintaining the city’s canopy takes work. Trees have a life span, and to have a healthy urban forest you need a mixture of ages and species. 

“The idea is to replace aged or damaged trees with younger, more vigorous ones, and never having to start from scratch,” says Dannemiller.  

Three years ago, the city began its ambitious Tree Succession Project, which aimed to plant more than 3,000 trees in residential areas. It was 300 live oaks and coconut palms short of completion when Hurricane Irma struck in September 2017, knocking down 1,600 trees.  

By the end of this summer, however, the project should be back on track, with 1,000 Irma-downed trees replaced and the last 150 palms from the succession project in place. 

Brook Dannemiller

38,175: number of public trees in the City 

2,850: new trees planted 2015-2017 

1,600: number of tree lost to Irma (2017) 

1,000: number of trees replaced after Irma 

$447,503: yearly energy saved (shade) 

Source: City of Coral Gables; i-tree