Atlanta – Growing the Urban Forest Community

Working with the city in helping increase and maintain Atlanta’s urban forest is Trees Atlanta. Founded in 1985 by Central Atlanta Progress, the Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. and the Atlanta Parks commissioner, Trees Atlanta’s mission is to protect and beautify the urban landscape by planting and conserving the city’s trees. Since its founding, the organization has planted more than 88,000 shade trees on public and private land across the city, while also helping maintain more than 100,000 trees in city parks, rights of way, street corridors, yards and more through various contracts with the city. Some of its planting work was also done through city contracts; the group planted more than 950 large shade trees for the city during the 2008-2009 planting season.[1] The organization also has an urban forestry crew that maintains the 3,500 street trees located in the downtown area by watering, mulching, pruning, staking and controlling blight and disease. This allows the city to deploy its crew to cover other maintenance needs in the city.

Smith Park before and after (below) its restoration as part of Park Pride’s Adopt-a- Park program. Credit: Park Pride

One of the pillars of the organization’s efforts is NeighborWoods, which works with communities throughout the metro area to plant trees while building community. Trees Atlanta staff members work with neighborhood residents to identify areas — along streets, in parks or in yards — in need of trees.[2] During the October to March planting season, the organization brings volunteers together for a short class on tree planting and then they work with local families and individuals to plant the trees. In the spring and summer months, volunteers and neighbors help water and mulch the newly planted trees. Once the trees are planted, neighborhood associations are tasked with developing a plan to care for the trees, which is especially crucial in the first two years.[3]

The organization has found that tree planting can be a catalyst for cooperation and community building in the city’s diverse neighborhoods. “Trees Atlanta’s NeighborWoods program has played a crucial role in the revitalization of the Capitol View neighborhood,” say Greta and Monty DeMayo of Capitol View. “Together, we’ve planted more than 300 trees in our community. The result was an increase in community pride, beautification and the improvement of the urban environment in which we live, work and play.”[4]

One of Trees Atlanta’s unique programs designed to bring communities together is its Neighborhood Arboreta, which were created to encourage community involvement in the urban forest. Like a traditional arboretum, each of the seven Neighborhood Arboreta exhibits rare native trees — these trees just happen to be found in a yard or sidewalk planting strip instead of a botanic garden or park. Atlanta’s Neighborhood Arboreta have engraved markers to identify the trees, but instead of following a path, each arboretum has its own walking map, and visitors use a brochure to locate and learn more about the arboretum trees within the neighborhood.[5]

Trees Atlanta also does outreach in schools and at community meetings and festivals and has an educational center, where it holds workshops, conferences and training sessions. An on-site demonstration area features the latest methods of growing healthy urban trees, such as using structured soils and rainwater collection mechanisms.[6] Atlanta’s urban forest benefits from corporate partnerships as well. For example, the Nalley Tree Campaign was created by the Nalley Automotive dealerships in Decatur, in partnership with the city of Decatur, DeKalb County, Trees Atlanta, Park Pride and Keep DeKalb Beautiful. The goal of the campaign is to work with area citizens to plant 10,000 trees in Decatur and Atlanta. So far, the initiative is about halfway to its goal.[7]

Then, there’s Mayor Kasim Reed’s Cities of Service plan titled “Forward Together,” designed to address two of the city’s biggest needs: youth development and community beautification.[8] Launched in March 2011, the plan’s Love Your Block initiative aims to connect volunteers with Atlanta-based organizations already working to beautify neighborhoods across the city, such as Trees Atlanta. When announcing “Forward Together,” Reed said, “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and begin working with residents to clean up and beautify our neighborhoods as part of the Love Your Block program.”[9]

Atlanta’s more than 3,000 acres of parkland are also an important component of the city’s urban forest, despite the fact that Atlanta’s city parkland is far less than other major cities. Helping maintain these green oases is Park Pride, a nonprofit founded in 1989 and dedicated to improving the capital’s parks. Park Pride coordinates more than 20,000 hours of volunteer work every year in Atlanta’s parks.[10] Through the organization’s Adopt-a-Park program, residents, neighborhood associations and businesses can take responsibility for improving small tracts of land (less than a quarter of an acre) for the benefit of the community.[11] Park Pride was also a strong advocate for legislation to fund the Atlanta BeltLine.


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[1] Trees Atlanta. Contractor Tree Planting. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012). For the most recent info on Trees Atlanta’s Urban Tree Program, visit this link: (updated Dec. 5, 2012).

[2] Trees Atlanta. Our Programs. NeighborWoods. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[3] Trees Atlanta. Volunteer. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[4] Trees Atlanta. Our Programs. NeighborWoods. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[5] Trees Atlanta. Our Programs. Neighborhood Arboreta. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[6] Trees Atlanta. Who We Are. The Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[7] Nalley Automotive. The Nalley Tree Campaign Project. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[8] City of Atlanta. Mayor’s Office. Projects and Initiatives. Atlanta Cities of Service Project. Forward Together. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[9] City of Atlanta. Mayor’s Office. Projects and Initiatives. Atlanta Cities of Service Project. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[10] Park Pride. About Us. What We Do. Leading & Inspiring Action for Parks & Greenspace. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012).

[11] Park Pride. Get Involved. Community Programs. Adopt-a-Park. (accessed Sept. 27, 2012)