By Mindy Maslin
PHS Tree Tenders Program Manager
Philadelphia's tree canopy is shrinking. We have the numbers to prove it. The Philadelphia Tree Canopy Assessment Report, released in December 2019, states that the City has lost about 6% of its urban canopy between 2008 and 2018, with the ten-year mark being a milestone for tree canopy to be measured. To those of us at Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, this comes as no surprise. We have been educating volunteers about the need to plant and protect trees in the city since 1993, when PHS Tree Tenders was founded, and we find our education and planting efforts need to increase year after year.
Why has the tree canopy diminished over the last ten years? Just a few reasons include: the Emerald Ash Borer killed many trees in our parks; wear and tear from living on a narrow strip of soil on a city street can take its toll on trees; clearing land for development plays a role; and home owners may choose to have trees removed on their property due to age, illness, or sometimes just too many leaves to rake each fall.
Planting trees certainly adds beauty to our world, but that is merely a fraction of their value. Tree planting is perhaps the single most important action you can take to protect our waterways, clean our air, reduce urban heat islands and overall rising summer temperatures, and make our neighborhoods friendlier and more cohesive. These are just a few of the benefits trees give us.
The very act of planting a tree has value all its own, from meeting neighbors to getting exercise, to becoming more connected to your community! We have organized plantings where people who had lived across the street from each other for a decade met and spoke for the first time… imagine how that can affect your feeling of community!
One of PHS’s goals is to restore the City’s tree canopy to 30% -- it is currently at 20% coverage. We feel planting more trees will reduce temperatures in the city, decrease the amount of pollution run-off into our waterways, and improve the health and well-being of families in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Mindy Maslin founded the PHS Tree Tenders program in 1993. Since that time, Tree Tenders have cared for more than 1,600 trees annually. Every planting season, approximately 60 Tree Tenders groups throughout Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania organize their neighbors to increase, improve, and protect our vital tree canopy.
Photo by Rob Cardillo