Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery and Delaware Counties will plant about 250 trees this Saturday in Pottstown, Norristown, Upper Darby, and Lansdowne for Earth Day.
The initiative is part of Habitat for Humanity’s annual “Rock the Block” event and an extension of its neighborhood revitalization efforts.
So along with more tree canopies, Pottstown, Norristown, and Upper Darby will also see some revitalization projects.
In Pottstown, volunteers will clean up the historic Edgewood Cemetery that is maintained by residents. Volunteers will also plant roughly 50 trees in the cemetery.
In the Norristown Farm Park, volunteers will plant about 45 trees and remove invasive plants.
Upper Darby volunteers will plant about 80 trees on streets throughout the township’s seven districts. They will also build a community garden and a meditative space on the grounds of The Church of God in Christ.
In partnership with the Tree Tenders of Upper Darby, Habitat hopes to create one tree-lined block in each of the township’s seven districts, depending on levels of community buy-in.
According to Jenara Gardner, Director of Development and Communications for Habitat MontDelco, the Tree Tenders, a branch of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, connected Habitat with community members who want more trees on their blocks and helped them find spaces in Upper Darby that are in need of more tree canopy.
Planting trees has been shown to improve air quality and positively impact physical and mental health.
A 2008 study by Columbia University found that children in neighborhoods that are tree-lined have asthma rates a quarter less than in neighborhoods without trees. And the Center for Urban Forest Research estimates that each tree removes 1.5 pounds of pollutants from the air.
Gardner said Habitat is hoping the trees will also improve residents’ feelings of safety in their surroundings.
“We’re trying to create strong, stable, healthy communities, and housing is a very key fundamental part of that,” said Gardner. “But you still have to leave your home and be in your neighborhood and you want to feel as safe in your neighborhood as you do in your home.”
Greening vacant lots has been shown to improve overall mental health for surrounding residents, according to a 2018 University of Pennsylvania randomized control study. The study also found a 29% decrease in gun violence in low-income neighborhoods near lots that were cleaned up.
Gardner said sometimes it doesn’t take much more than some paint and greenery to just boost a community’s morale.
“When you take a space that is vacant, clean that up, add a beautiful fence that is open and welcoming, create benches, people will use that space and feel safer in their neighborhoods,” Gardner said.
Volunteers can still sign up for Habitat’s Saturday events and register in person for a fee of $25.