Become an Urban Tree Planter for Arbor Day

Become an urban tree planter for Arbor Day

To celebrate Arbor day, we asked Ben Carlson from Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco how you and your neighbors can become urban tree planters.

Why should communities plant more trees in urban areas?

Most everyone enjoys the beauty of trees; they’ve inspired artists and writers for millennia. In cities, where natural environments have largely been paved over, this beauty is more precious. Trees increase neighborhood pride, and property values, too. 

Trees produce oxygen and sequester carbon, which at least partly offsets the urban emissions that contribute to global warming. They provide wildlife habitat, which is otherwise scarce in urban environments, and a variety of psychological benefits: views of trees make students more successful, workers more productive, and hospital patients recover faster. Trees reduce stress, making people more likely to choose walking over driving.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and city planners regard trees as part of a city’s ‘green infrastructure’ due to the benefits they provide. For example, by capturing water that might otherwise flow into the storm water or sewer system, they reduce the burden on a city’s water processing system; the captured water can then recharge urban aquifers. Trees also capture airborne particles; research shows that asthma attacks are less common in urban neighborhoods with more trees. By providing shade in summertime, trees counteract what’s known as the ‘urban heat island effect.’ They also absorb traffic noise. 

How can people get their neighbors involved?

Talk to them about the benefits trees can bring to a neighborhood. A local urban forestry organization can provide assistance. Friends of the Urban Forest helps San Franciscans become "Neighborhood Organizers" by supplying flyers, talking points, and tips about effective outreach strategies. The first step we recommend is a casual happy hour meeting in the neighborhood. Our planting events always happen on Saturday mornings, and conclude with a potluck lunch.

What’s the best way to choose trees to plant?

This is where it’s useful to have guidance from a professional. We prefer to plant trees that provide the greatest environmental benefits, which usually means the largest species suitable for the site. We created an Urban Tree Species Directory that enables people to filter species by a variety of criteria.

What kind of help can people expect from urban forestry organizations like yours?

When someone wants to get a street tree adjacent to his or her property, we check the site to ensure that a tree can be planted there without interfering with utilities or overly reducing the width of the walkway. We recommend species that are suitable for the site and that meet the preferences of the property owner. We cut and dispose of concrete from the sidewalk, deliver and plant the tree and install the hardware (stakes, cross braces, arbor ties) needed to support and protect it, and visit the tree periodically during the first few years post-planting to assess its health and make any pruning cuts needed to ensure good structure. We charge the property owner a co-payment of $135 for most trees, and we subsidize the balance using grants and donations (the total costs are typically around $500).


Courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest

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