Philadelphia branches out to pay for street trees

    How to plant 300,000 trees with a budget that pays for 6,000

    This weekend is the first city-wide tree planting of the season in Philadelphia. The commissioner of parks and recreation has vowed to plant 300,000 new trees in the city. It’s impossible for the city to do that on its own.

    It takes a tough tree to make it in the city. Fran Lawn is showing a group of teenagers how to plant a hornbeam tree at 17th and Brown streets.

    “You need the right tree for the right place. Too tall is going to get in the power lines. You want it to be pretty urban-tolerant, you’ve got a lot of stresses on trees in urban environments, salts, exhaust, oil from cars.”

    At a recent budget hearing, Parks and Recreation commissioner Mike DiBeradinis told City Council that if he can’t plant 300,000 trees in five years, they should get another guy for the job. He was asking the city for $2.5 million–but at 400 bucks a tree, that adds up to only about 6,000 trees. DiBeradinis says some of that money will be used not to plant trees but convince city businesses to do their own planting.

    “Do you think institutions want to invest in this goal, when there’s no city in this? What is our skin in the game? What is our commitment? We have to show commitment to get others to commit their time, money, and employees toward this.”

    The utility company PECO is already getting in on the game, committing 20 employees on company time to plant 35 trees near Fairmount.

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