Shades of Progress

The city makes tree planting a priority
by Cassie Cummins

Upon unveiling Greenworks Philadelphia, the city’s sustainability plan, Mayor Nutter announced his ambition to make Philadelphia “the greenest city in America” by 2015. A little over a year later, the city has numerous programs underway, including its Tree Planting Initiative—an effort to increase the city’s tree canopy from 15 to 30 percent by 2026. The city will plant 300,000 new trees in the next five years.

In November 2009, the Department of Parks and Recreation held a Tree Summit with its environmental partners, including the Streets Department, the Water Department, UC Green, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Central Philadelphia Development Corporation, and generated a plan of action. The group established four key areas of focus: tree count, strategy for engagement, regulation and inspection and nursery stock. Patrick Morgan, spokesperson for the Department, asserts that these sorts of collaborations are key to the success of Greenworks.

$1.8 million in stimulus funding has already gone toward the Tree Planting Initiative. This money enables the city to do a number of things, including contracting with the University of Vermont to make parcel-by-parcel tree canopy assessments. And, at the end of April, the University of Pennsylvania, the city’s largest land-owning body, became Greenworks’ first institutional partner. Morgan says this step will create myriad new opportunities.

Groups outside of Greenworks are also working to support the Mayor’s initiative, including Plant Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Tree Tenders.