The investment will be used to make the city’s handling of street trees more equitable
Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto and the Shade Tree Commission of the City of Pittsburgh announced an equitable street tree investment strategy to encourage maintenance in low-income areas with low canopy as part of the mayor’s vision to plant 100,000 trees above the tree next decade.
The city is currently using data to inform targeted road construction investments but is trying to improve this process by adding an equity lens. The benefits of trees include improved air quality, less rainwater runoff, less heat island effect, energy savings, a better sense of community and biodiversity.
Use the equity
According to census records and street tree inventories funded by the Shade Tree Commission, visualizations from the Create Lab at Carnegie Mellon University show that low-income and black communities have disproportionately fewer street trees in the city and therefore see less of the benefits of trees. The equitable street tree investment strategy will help ensure that street tree benefits are fairly shared.
The strategy aims to identify 10 low-income and low-income neighborhoods annually for “focused, proactive and cyclical” tree care plans, tree planting and urban forest formation in these neighborhoods to improve the quality of life for current and future residents. The improved maintenance includes trimming, sidewalk repair, and stump removal, and is complemented by communication plans that are customized for each neighborhood.
“The Shade Tree Commission members are happy to find more money to pay for the maintenance our forestry department does on a daily basis for public works. By expanding that capacity, the benefits of trees, including air quality improvements, can fairly reach more of Pittsburgh’s neighbors, ”said Kristen Spirl, Chair of the Shade Tree Commission and Soil Manager, Chatham University Arboretum.
The strategy consists of four phases to identify and address areas of need:
Phase 1: Analyze city-wide data to identify neighborhoods in need of investment and community partners to help with planting and maintenance.
Phase 2: Approval of Shade Tree Commission investments in 10 neighborhoods setting measures to gradually improve visible maintenance, capacity, tree planting, education and employment opportunities.
Phase 3: Assessment of the canopy increase in selected city districts.
Phase 4: Identify the next 10 neighborhoods for investment to repeat the process and assessment.
“The forestry department is already using inventory and map data to inform where we are focusing on maintaining our urban forest, and the city is working with many partners to expand our capabilities,” said city forester Lisa Ceoffe.
“The Equitable Street Tree Investment Strategy recognizes community concerns and seeks to build trust by adapting communications and neighborhood invitations to participate.”
“The Equitable Street Tree Investment Strategy will take this work forward and be able to build even more confidence for Pittsburghers to request street trees in the first place.”
The Equitable Street Tree Investment Strategy was developed under the direction of the Office of Mayor Peduto, the Shade Tree Commission, and the UrbanKind Institute in collaboration with Tree Pittsburgh, Public Works Department of Forestry, Urban Planning, Sustainability and Resilience Department, Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and the Chatham University Arboretum.
“We often hear residents’ reluctance and fatigue to celebrate new tree plantings because they discover damage to sidewalks and property from previous initiatives and are often responsible for maintenance that they are not prepared for,” added Jamil Bey, member des Shade, added Tree Commission since 2015 and President of the UrbanKind Institute.
“The Equitable Street Tree Investment Strategy recognizes community concerns and seeks to build trust by adjusting communications and neighborhood invitations to participate. This will help the city more effectively care for trees in areas that have not received much investment. As a member of the Shade Tree Commission, I am delighted to be part of this strategy to focus the community’s voices on the pursuit of justice in the city’s operations and functions. “
The strategy is jointly managed by the Commission and the city, who are working together to identify funding opportunities. Mayor Peduto and the Shade Tree Commission plan to announce the first phase of 10 neighborhoods by Arbor Day on April 30th.
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