The ‘lungs of our city’: Philly offering 1,000 free trees for residents to plant at home

A person holds free trees that are set to be planted as part of the TreePhilly giveaway program.

Up to 1,000 residents will be able to receive a free tree to plant on their property thanks to a city program. (TreePhilly)

The arrival of spring means — in addition to a much-needed respite after a long, pandemic winter — another free tree giveaway in Philadelphia.

Up to 1,000 residents will be able to receive a free tree to plant on their property thanks to TreePhilly, a Philadelphia Parks & Recreation program run in partnership with the Fairmount Park Conservancy.

TreePhilly was born out of Mayor Michael Nutter’s Office of Sustainability in 2009, with the goal of supporting Philadelphia neighborhoods in establishing a healthy canopy of trees.

An April 2020 study in the Lancet Journal shows that an improved tree canopy could save hundreds of Philadelphians per year from premature death.

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“Trees are the lungs of our city,” said Parks & Recreation Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell. “They help keep Philadelphians healthier, and make our neighborhoods stronger and more beautiful.”

TreePhilly will host 13 no-contact pickup events for residents whose neighborhoods need trees the most. Door-to-door delivery service is also available for residents in high-risk populations and those unable to pick up a tree in a car.

This season, TreePhilly is distributing grants to 28 community partners that will operate pickup sites and help with tree delivery.

Besides being a good excuse to get outdoors, planting a tree also plays a role in improving long-term public health outcomes, said Fairmount Park Conservancy Executive Director Maura McCarthy.

“Trees provide essential services for city residents — they lower stress levels, improve our respiratory health, and cool our homes on hot summer days,” McCarthy said.

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Since 2012, TreePhilly has given away more than 25,000 trees.

TreePhilly will provide residents with mulch and information about planting and caring for their tree, but residents are responsible for the actual planting.

The program is open to all city residents, though residents must pre-register for an event to receive a tree, and trees must be planted in the ground, as opposed to a container or sidewalk.

An illustration breaks down where spring 2021 tree giveaways are taking place across the city. (TreePhilly)

A citywide pickup event will take place on May 15 at FDR Park, while deliveries and neighborhood events will take place throughout the spring.

The spring won’t be TreePhilly’s first foray into pandemic giveaways. In 2020, it distributed more than 1,200 trees to homeowners, while observing COVID-19 mitigation guidelines. This season’s iteration will similarly follow coronavirus protocols:

  • Pickups will take place at scheduled times in strictly limited numbers
  • Staff will practice physical distancing
  • Residents will load trees into their own cars

Those interested can register for a free tree online.

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