Philadelphia offering free trees

If you own property in Philadelphia, the city wants you to put down roots, literally.

It’s offering free trees to all Philadelphia residents with available yard space. The deadline for getting one this spring is Saturday.

“There is no cost. We are literally giving trees away, so I don’t think when you price it out you can get a better deal than free,” said Patrick Morgan, spokesman for the city Parks and Recreation department.

City officials estimate that, currently, 20 percent of Philadelphia is covered by trees. They want that coverage up to 30 percent over the next 13 years.

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“You’re able to sequester more carbon, deal with probably millions of more gallons of stormwater and neighborhood runoff,” said Morgan. “There’s a study out of Wharton that shows a tree in front of your house raises property values up to 10 percent.

“So there’s just a whole lot of benefits that come through a robust tree canopy,” he said.

To make progress towards its goal of 30 percent coverage, the city estimates it will have to plant about 300,000 trees by 2015. It hopes residents will do their share by planting at least 2,000 this spring, and another 2,000 this fall.

The city says that some neighborhoods already have 30 percent coverage, but others have only 1 or 2 percent. It’s homeowners in those low-coverage neighborhoods that they’re specifically hoping will take advantage of the promotion.

A variety of tree species will be handed out, including dogwoods, crabapples, magnolias, and redbuds. Experts from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society will help residents choose the appropriate tree for their property and also teach them adequate care. All trees have been locally sourced from area nurseries.

The city is paying for the program with a $75,000 grant from by Wells Fargo & Co.

For a small tree, residents will need at least a 10-foot by 10-foot yard. For a large tree, a yard must be 30 feet by 30 feet or larger.

New York, Boston and Washington, D.C,. are estimated to already have 30 percent coverage.

The Philadelphia Department of Parks & Recreation’s TreePhilly campaign has more information on its website on how to apply to get a free tree this spring.

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