San Jose Combats Crime with Trees

SanJose_videoGood morning! This great story greeted us today and we couldn’t keep it to ourselves. We’re excited to hear about the great work being done by San Jose, CA non-profit Our City Forest, and the awesome community they work with to help trees and neighborhoods care for each other.

We love all the great information that’s been coming out lately linking green communities to healthier, happier, safer places to be. From published research out of Portland and Baltimore, to stories like this one, and from our own community at GSP restoration site Cheasty Greenspace Mt. View and others, this hot topic is turning out some pretty great news. Here’s to everyone out there working to keep the trend going!


The Trouble with Storms

There are a ton of benefits that trees provide for our cities, neighborhoods, and homes that we can take for granted. Last week we mentioned that a large percentage of the monetary value provided by trees is by mitigating stormwater.

In the Gulf coast, the damage from both the drought and flooding are disrupting city and rural life as Ivan (now a Tropical Storm) passes. Although here in Washington State we don’t encounter hurricanes, all urban folk rely on cities to take care of water flowing through our soil and over our roads. Cities provided the infrastructure to collect, distribute, and treat stormwater and sewage at once, meaning that the pipes and tunnels can get overwhelmed when storms occur.

Here in King County, the Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) is concerned about overflows that can occur when the system’s capacity is overwhelmed by stormwater. This causes environmental and health problems when overflows contain more than just stormwater, but also some sewage. The WTD’s project for Bioretention is one way the county takes advantage of the natural absorptive power of vegetation.

From the Arbor Day Foundation’s publication “Tree City USA” Bulletin 55

Trees are great at managing stormwater runoff from the leaves disrupting rainfall, to the roots system’s

storage of rainwater. According  to the Alliance for Community Trees, mature trees can hold 50 to 100 gallons of water during large storms. Strategic tree planting can relieve pressure off of more traditional infrastructure – Detroit reduced overflow in 2010 by 10-20% in volume, saving about 159 million dollars a year. Trees are an effective, environmentally-friendly solution to an expensive problem.

The Value of Urban Trees

Green Seattle event in Interlaken

Tree enthusiasts (hello!) know that urban trees are crucial for our communities – we feel it in our bones – but, how can we quantify this for our less enthusiastic neighbors?

A recent article in The Atlantic discusses “The Case for More Urban Trees” with a variety of new evidence for tree benefits. Programs in both the other Washington (D.C.) and San Diego County have cropped up, profiling the urban canopy. Interactive maps then allow users to view a summary of the benefits trees have for our community from carbon sequestration to water retention, energy conservation, and air pollution reduction. These tools put real numbers to the abstract benefits that city dwellers feel everyday.

In fact, these tools are not limited to specific counties in the country. The Casey Tree Foundation developed a Tree Benefit Calculator, where you can enter your location and tree species to discover the monetary benefit to your neighborhood or city. Intrigued, I looked up the benefits of the London Planetree right outside the Forterra office in downtown Seattle. At about 20 inches in diameter, our tree has $101 worth of benefits to the area mostly from the property value and stormwater mitigation. Trees have an extremely important and now more tangible value for our cities.

Photo by Andrea Carey

Even more incredibly, Seattle understands these benefits especially for city infrastructure like stormwater maintenance. The reLeaf program offers four FREE trees to city residents to keep the Emerald City green. Puns aside, city government is responding to the financial value of urban greenery that arborist  research can pinpoint. Here at Green City Partnerships, we fully support this symbiotic relationship.

What other programs support urban trees?

Where to Place Parks

Forsyth Park sits along the spine of the Historic District, uniting pedestrian over car traffic. Credit to Kevin Klinkenberg

What makes a park work? Baltimore answered this question earlier this year with, “location, location, location”. City Planner Kevin Klinkenberg agrees. In his latest post on the benefits of walkable cities, Klinkenberg says what makes Forsyth Park great is how central it is (physically) to community life in the Savannah’s Historic District. Forsyth Park dominates the spine of the district for many blocks, squarely inserting green space into city living. It diverts traffic and allows pedestrians and cyclists a logical place to enjoy and congregate. Instead of making parks the land use of last resort, cities must to actively pursue locations for the best parks.

This is how purposeful city planning can develop urban forestry, and local communities! We are so excited here at Green Cities to have committed partners that bring the private and public stakeholders together to protect and restore urban green spaces just around your corner. And we’ll keep you in the loop as the benefits of urban parks are discovered around the nation!

Help with a new rapid response project for invasive plants

An exciting citizen science project not directly related to our Green City Partnerships may be of interest to our volunteers and supporters. The PNW Invasive Plant Council is recruiting volunteers to participate in the new Washington State EDRR project. This project aims to eradicate invasive plants currently in low abundance in target areas, before they have the chance to spread and cause serious ecological damage. Volunteers will be asked to search for these plants while enjoying the outdoors in four different Cooperative Weed Management Areas- Nisqually, Yakima, and Chehalis River Watersheds and HWY 12 -SR 410, which includes Mt. Rainier National Park.

Training will be conducted in mid-July. If you are interested in participating as a Citizen Scientist please e-mail Julie Combs ( for more information or to sign up for one of the trainings. Training dates and locations will be announced based on volunteer response.

Project UP heads to Baltimore

We just heard from Project UP partners ACTrees that the second site has been selected to develop a new urban park, on the heels of their first collaboration last year in Indianapolis. Project UP, a partnership between ACTrees and the Boise ASPEN brand of recycled papers, works to “unlock the potential” of urban places by creating new parks and greenspace.

The new greenspace in Baltimore will be in a small lot that formerly held 12 abandoned row houses. Project UP hopes to revitalize the neighborhood and give the community a positive new public space. Park development is coordinated by Project UP, working alongside local non-profit Parks and People Foundation, human services company Humanim, Inc., and local government agencies.

ACTrees says that last year’s project, “Highland Vicinity Park, at the corner of 29th Street and Capitol Ave. in the Near North part of Indianapolis, is now a green oasis at a busy intersection where a gas station used to stand.” Some nice photos are posted on their website of the construction, which involved over 70 volunteers.

These are just the kind of stories we love to hear about. We’ll keep our ears open for more updates from this great project.

Southern Sudan Plans for Animal Cities

The BBC ran this article a while back.  We thought you’d enjoy something a little different.
“The authorities in southern Sudan have unveiled a $10bn (£6.4bn) plan to rebuild the region’s cities in the shapes of animals and fruit.”

“In Juba, the office of the regional president is situated where the rhinoceros’s eye should be.  In Wau, the sewage treatment plant is appropriately placed under the giraffe’s tail.  There is talk that the town of Yambio will be shaped like a pineapple.”

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