Atlanta NeighborWoods

(Atlanta, GA) Trees Atlanta’s NeighborWoods program inspires, motivates, and educates local residents to address the management, care, planting and protection of trees in their own neighborhoods. This program brings communities together to work toward common goals of revitalizing their neighborhoods to have a greener, healthier urban environment.


Category: Volunteers and Community Development
Overview
60% of Atlanta’s natural tree cover has been removed over the last 20 years, and, according to NASA, metro Atlanta is losing trees at the rate of 50 acres a day. Tree loss in Atlanta and its neighboring counties has resulted in urban “heat islands” with temperatures 3-10 degrees above the surrounding countryside. The hot weather dome over the Atlanta area has changed local weather patterns including reducing rain in some areas and increasing the intensity of thunderstorms in others.
Nothing revitalizes or stabilizes a neighborhood more than its community coming together to support and work toward common goals. Trees Atlanta’s programs offer weekly opportunities for neighborhood groups, families, students and employee groups to plant, mulch and prune trees or help remove invasive plants that inhibit natural growth in greenspace areas in neighborhoods all over the metro area. Having natural, healthy areas for children to play and for families to walk to dine, to socialize and to exercise is vital to the stabilization of a neighborhood. Local nonprofit affordable housing developers, such as Reynoldstown Revitalization and Progressive Redevelopment Inc. (PRI) Housing recognize the importance of trees and greenspace areas and have previously partnered with Trees Atlanta to create tree plans and lead planting and maintenance education projects in their neighborhoods.
PRI Housing had three affordable housing rehab projects in the City of Atlanta and one in neighboring College Park for which tree planting and invasive plant removal were needed. Trees Atlanta worked with PRI’s Project Development team to ensure that the neighborhoods’ needs were met and that residents understood the need for protecting our urban trees.
Background
Trees Atlanta works with communities and municipalities to restore Atlanta’s remaining forest spaces through its Forest Restoration program. Invasive plants choking out native trees, trash dumping and encroachment are just a few of the problems addressed by the program. Trees Atlanta has collaborated with other community groups to conserve Atlanta’s trees. For example, the Wildwood Urban Forest Preserve was created in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, and Trees Atlanta created the Morningside/Lenox Park Association in collaboration with the City of Atlanta.
Trees Atlanta has two volunteer projects every weekend, year-round. From October through March, Trees Atlanta’s NeighborWoods program has planting projects throughout the metro area, in partnership with neighborhood groups. From April through September, the weekend volunteer projects include pruning, mulching and other maintenance activities. The Trees Atlanta Forest Restoration program has year-round weekend projects to remove invasive plants choking out native trees as well as removing trash, tires and other items that endanger healthy, natural growth in Atlanta’s greenspace areas.
Trees Atlanta has over 1,500 active volunteers to whom weekly email messages are sent regarding weekend projects. About 2% of weekly volunteers are from corporations. Ongoing volunteers include arborists, forestry consultants and environmental advocates who will provide ongoing information to new and long-term participants.
Components
Planting locations are based upon neighborhood requests and where Trees Atlanta recognizes a need for trees. Trees Atlanta plants only in native soils present at the time of planting. All plantings are led by seasoned volunteers who have been trained how to plant a tree. Trees Atlanta staff and regular volunteers monitor the trees for success.
Trees Atlanta maintains and guarantees the life of their tree for two years, since it takes about that time to become established in the ground. Any tree that dies within that time frame will be replaced. They have a nearly 90% survival rate.
Many partners contribute to making Trees Atlanta a success. On this project, they included:
21st Century Leaders. A youth leadership development program for Georgia’s high school students. To support Trees Atlanta’s work, they planned a youth-led 5K run, “Trek for Trees.” After the race, student volunteers participated in a project to remove invasive plants in the park while other student volunteers planted trees in the neighborhood adjacent to the park.
PRI Housing. A nonprofit affordable housing organization that identified greenspace restoration and tree planting needs adjacent to or on properties being developed/rehabbed for low-income families. The primary goal for this partnership was to educate and involve residents in taking pride in their neighborhoods and working with their neighbors toward common goals to preserve and maintain their trees and greenspace areas.
Results
* Enhanced the tree canopy in the East Point, Delowe Village, Reynoldstown, Cabbagetown, and Oakhurst neighborhoods, where PRI developed or renovated single and multi-family housing for low to middle income families.
* Planted 1,500 shade trees.
* Involved 1,733 volunteers for 4,217 contributed hours (including 522 new youth volunteers).
Lessons Learned
1. Have the neighborhood, where the trees were planted, take “ownership” of the trees and helps to maintain them by watering them weekly.
2. Take before and after photos to illustrate the visual impact that trees have.
3. Be vigilant about ongoing maintenance of the trees.
4. Keep accurate records about the trees planted (Trees Atlanta uses the DAVEY tree monitoring software and GIS technology to record all tree planting activity).
5. Evaluate your progress to specific and aggressive goals monthly. This will allow you to make adjustments in strategy, if need be, to ensure success.
Contact Information:
Susan Pierce
NeighborWoods Coordinator
Trees Atlanta
225 Chester Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30316
Phone: 404-522-4097
Fax: 404-681-3927