I can’t say I remember looking up to count the trees as a kid growing up in Hunting Park. But I do remember the asphalt burning through my sneakers while playing in the schoolyards during sweltering summer heat. It wasn’t until much later, through my work as a community planner, that I learned about the urban heat island effect, and the dramatic impact low tree cover has on residents’ health, safety, and ability to stay cool in the summer months.
Today, not a day goes by when I don’t look up and take notice of the number of trees on our streets as I walk through the community.
Esperanza is committed to creating opportunities for a more healthy, safe and beautiful Hunting Park. Tree-lined streets and residences are a big part of realizing that mission. Like many areas of Philadelphia with an industrial past, Hunting Park has very low tree canopy, leaving our neighbors vulnerable in extreme heat. As we work to beautify our neighborhood, protecting and enhancing our tree canopy has become one of our primary objectives.
Thanks to our partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s Tree Philly program, we have given away over 600 trees to Hunting Park residents since 2012. Across the City, Tree Philly has given away 23,000 trees, many of which go to low canopy neighborhoods with the same needs as Hunting Park.
Each fall and spring, we sign up to host a Tree Giveaway and work with Tree Philly to select the types of trees our residents will find most appealing. Fruit trees and flowering trees are the most popular selections. Maybe they remind 1st and 2nd generation residents like my parents of the more tropical landscapes of their home country.
The Tree Philly fall and spring tree giveaways are a fun opportunity to remind residents of the huge benefits and intrinsic value of trees to our community. When we first partnered with Tree Philly, Esperanza would heavily promote our tree giveaways as block parties with posters, knocking on doors and advertisements with local businesses.
Today, Hunting Park residents ask us when the next giveaway will be months in advance and we have a growing demand from residents for both yard and street trees. Where it previously took two days to give away all the trees, the most recent giveaway was completed in less than three hours. Through Tree Philly, residents can get up to two free trees and community groups can request up to 10 trees.
With one of the most sparse tree canopies in the city, we know that Hunting Park needs to keep pushing to plant new trees and encourage more residents to plant and care for trees both on the street and in their yards. Thanks to partners like Tree Philly and the PHS Tree Tenders Program, we are making positive steps to raise awareness of the benefits of trees, and plant hundreds of free trees in our community each year.
Registration is now open for the Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and Tree Philly Fall Yard Tree Giveaway. Community members who are interested in registering can get more information about local events all throughout Philadelphia on the Tree Philly website or by calling 215-683-0217.