By Maria Harwood

Community ReLeaf in Asbury Park
Ready to plant in Asbury Park, N.J. Credit: American Forests

This fall, we ventured out into the communities of our five 2013 Community ReLeaf project cities and rolled up our sleeves for some hard work! Thanks to the support of our project partners, Bank of America and the U.S. Forest Service along with 169 local community volunteers, we were able to put 175 trees in the ground, enhancing urban forests across the country.

In addition to the tree plantings, assessments of the urban forests in our project cities were performed to analyze different aspects of the canopy cover and benefits to the local communities realized from investments in urban trees. The results so far speak volumes about the importance of urban forests in our communities:

In Asbury Park, N.J., a coastal city impacted by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, some major trees were lost during the storm, but the overall canopy cover hasn’t suffered a significant change. Tree canopy covers approximately 22 percent of Asbury Park’s 1.5 square miles. The city’s trees provide more than half a million dollars’ worth of benefits annually in filtration of air and water pollution alone. These services also provide a vital link to lessening the impact of stormwater on the city infrastructure following large storms.

Work in Detroit, Mich., was focused in River Rouge Park, the city’s largest park. Collectively, the 1,184-acre park and its 140,000 trees contribute $2.84 million in benefits by filtering air pollution, sequestering carbon and controlling rainwater. If lost, replacing the entire urban forest in this park alone would cost $84 million.

Community ReLeaf in Detroit's Rouge River Park.
Community ReLeaf in Detroit’s River Rouge Park. Credit: American Forests

In East Nashville, Tenn., an assessment was conducted looking specifically at the street trees that comprise its urban forest. It was found that these 11,130 trees provide shade for about 12 percent of all the streets and sidewalks. These street trees provide over $1 million in cumulative benefits annually. That is, for every dollar invested in the trees, the community receives $6.91 in benefits.

Pasadena, Calif., also had an analysis conducted on its 58,267 street trees, which provide over $8 million in cumulative benefits each year, including over $1 million in air quality benefits. Overall, the street trees shade around 27 percent of streets and sidewalks.

The assessment in Atlanta, Ga., is still underway, but the report is looking at the urban forests surrounding schools like Price Middle School, where we planted trees in November, to determine the amount of benefit afforded to students from their natural environment.

It’s been a busy year with the kickoff of the Community ReLeaf program in these five cities around the U.S. We have already studied urban canopies and added 175 trees to urban forests around the country, but more work is yet to come! Keep an eye out for the detailed results from each city, coming soon.