How planting trees helps solve inequality in Philadelphia

Monday, April 13, 2020
How Planting Trees helps solve inequality in Philadelphia
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"I always say that trees have superpowers," says one woman involved with planting them across the most barren parts of Philadelphia. Community Journalist Matteo has more.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Philadelphia is a dynamic city, both lush with greenery and dry with concrete jungles.

Neighborhoods rich in plant life, especially trees, are able to reap many benefits. Trees provide shade, lower the temperature, capture stormwater, provide refuge for wildlife, and generally brighten the atmosphere. They can bring residents outdoors, meeting their neighbors and improving mental health.

Trees can also help us understand the economic makeup of the city. Organizations like the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, Esperanza, and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, have found a correlation between tree cover, income, and quality of life.

Through our discussions with these organizations, we learned that Philadelphia has under 20% tree cover. They hope to increase that percentage by targeting areas like Hunting Park, where it can be around 20 degrees hotter than other parts of the city.

On Cayuga Street, trees were first planted in 2018. While not yet towering over the city block, these trees will eventually mitigate such issues. Esperanza continues to educate neighborhood residents, motivate them to plant more trees, and keep them living in the communities where they plant them.

The effort extends far beyond any single neighborhood.

"Philadelphia is at the epicenter, through the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's work, of leading this effort to get people involved in urban greening," said Mindy Maslin, Program Manager of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Tree Tenders.

The Tree Tenders program has mobilized over 5,000 people through courses designed to turn ordinary citizens into tree stewards. This map shows which areas in the city most need vegetation such as trees.

Also spearheading the effort to plant trees is the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department, which will be implementing its first-ever citywide urban forest strategic plan this summer.

In a 2018 Tree Canopy Assessment, the department notes that Philadelphia lost 6% tree cover compared to the numbers in 2008. Looking forward to the next 10 years, they hope to turn this around with their strategic plan. Every spring and fall, they give away free trees for locals to plant.

To learn more about the ongoing efforts to vitalize communities through planting trees, visit the Tree Tenders website or the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department's website.

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