The neighborhood is called Hunting Park, evoking images of green lawns and shady boughs. But the North Philadelphia community has one of the lowest percentages of tree canopy in the city, making it one of the hottest places to live and contributing to childhood asthma and other health issues.
“Planting trees is one of the best ways to ameliorate the problem long-term,” says Gabriella Paez, education coordinator at Esperanza, the Hispanic community development organization.
This year, PHS partnered with Esperanza to launch a Tree Tenders group in Hunting Park and offered the program’s first bilingual training for the community which is 60 percent Hispanic “Language tends to be a big barrier in getting access to resources,” explains Paez, who provided translation for the written and classroom instruction.
Twenty-two residents graduated from the training, and the new volunteers planted 15 trees in April. They will add another 45 street trees in November.
The young trees are already making an impact on the residents, who have added window boxes and other plantings around their homes and are spending more time outdoors with their neighbors. “The blocks look nicer, cleaner, and it just feels different. People say, ‘I love walking down this block now,’” Paez says. “People are feeling better about where they live. It’s literally transforming the neighborhood.”
In five years, the Tree Tenders will have planted hundreds of trees, Paez adds, and “20 years down the road they will give plenty of shade. We really will have a green Hunting Park.”