Home Climate justice Urban Forest Defenders celebrate PVD tree plan – ecoRI News

Urban Forest Defenders celebrate PVD tree plan – ecoRI News

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The initiative intends to plant trees in low canopy neighborhoods

By ROB SMITH / ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE – Saturday was a beautiful fall day to learn more about trees. Organizers of the PVD Tree Plan, a plan to tackle inequalities in trees and green infrastructure in South Providence and other areas of the city, held a celebration outside the Juanita Sanchez educational complex on Thurbers Avenue. About 40 residents came to learn about the initiative and hear first-hand from students and others about the need for more trees.

“The benefits of trees are not distributed evenly,” said Leandro “Kufa” Castro, director of the Groundwork Rhode Island program and member of the plan’s steering committee, in the Nov. 13 kickoff.

The Tree Plan is a collaborative effort between the Providence Neighborhood Planting Program (PNPP), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Providence Parks Department, the City Sustainability Office, Movement Education Outdoors and Youth in Action. Partners will conduct the first round of community surveys to find out exactly what residents of low-canopy neighborhoods need to build their urban forests.

“We expect the plan to contain recommendations to change the ordinances on how we care for trees,” said Sheila Dormody, TNC’s Climate and Cities program director for Rhode Island. “Ideas on funding and funding mechanisms to make sure we have the right level of investment to achieve whatever our goals for the plan are.”

The iniquity of trees across Providence is well documented. In recent years, the city’s forestry division has compiled an inventory of street trees and conducted an urban canopy survey, counting each individual tree and documenting their distribution in neighborhoods. The latest results show marked differences even between neighborhoods, even those that are side by side. The wealthiest areas of the city, like Blackstone, have up to 50 percent tree cover. The poorest and most diverse neighborhoods such as South Providence and Washington Park have less than 10 percent tree cover.

Urban forests are an important part of the local ecosystem. These areas encompass all of the city’s vegetation, whether that green is found in parks, cemeteries, backyards, playgrounds, college campuses, or along highways. Native trees and plants are especially valuable for maintaining wildlife, providing much-needed habitat for wildlife, including insects.

The city’s trees also capture carbon to fight the climate crisis, trap stormwater to reduce flooding, and purify the air residents breathe. Trees are the first line of defense during the hot summer months by providing shade. They combat the heat island effect – where urban areas experience warmer temperatures than peripheral areas – and help save energy costs by reducing the need for air conditioning.

“I’m really excited that this process builds on the city’s climate justice plan,” said Dormody. “Having a fairer canopy was one of the goals identified in the plan. “

Part of the Climate Justice Plan process involved investigating what actions residents expected from city officials. By far the most popular element was more trees and more vegetation in the neighborhoods. The desire for trees is high in low canopy neighborhoods, but that doesn’t always mean that’s where the trees go.

“We have to make sure [trees] go to those frontline communities, ”Castro said.

He told the crowd how he was part of an initiative to donate 200 trees to Pawtucket and Central Falls earlier in the year. The initiative received more than 100 requests from people “in the greenest part of town”. He said this response illustrated the problem facing urban forest advocates, reaching communities that need more trees the most.

Various programs exist across the city to donate more trees. The PNPP with the Parks Department plants up to 550 trees per year. Residents can request a free tree, and most of the planting is done in April and October. PNPP teaches residents how to take care of trees and the importance of the urban forest.

Providence is not the only one to set up a tree plan, other cities have started in recent years to take their urban forests more seriously. Philadelphia is nearing the end of its one-year process to write its Urban Forest Strategic Plan. Boston launched its own plan earlier this year and completed its first street tree inventory in September.

Community feedback and survey sessions are slated to begin this winter and run through March. In the spring, organizers plan to assemble a first draft of the plan, followed by other rounds of public awareness. The tree plan should be finalized next summer. Plan organizers hope that city council and the mayor’s office will formally adopt the plan ahead of a planned launch in September 2022.