Pockets of Poverty

(Albuquerque, NM) Tree New Mexico’s NeighborWoods-supported Pockets of Poverty program broke through the budgetary constraint that new trees can pose low-income communities, by providing free trees and planting them in conjunction with residents of the South Broadway Neighborhood, one of Albuquerque’s thirteen Empowerment Zones and Federally designated “Pockets of Poverty.”

Category: Community Development Fundraising
According to tree counts (excluding the Albuquerque Bosque), there are approximately 85,000 trees in Albuquerque’s public spaces. Five to ten percent of these trees are old or need replacement and one to two thousand of these are either dead or have been vandalized and downed and need replacing. Despite the known benefits of trees, some communities are financially challenged to launch massive tree planting efforts. Individual residents in the “Pocket of Poverty” neighborhoods, where tree canopy coverage is particularly low, fall into this category. Through education and a community tree planting, Tree New Mexico helped them overcome this discrepancy.
In a recent open-ended community survey, 400 randomly selected Albuquerque residents were asked about the importance of trees in the community. Only 48% of residents in the Valley/Downtown areas of the city (the location of the South Broadway neighborhood) stated that they have a positive opinion of their neighborhood. Most of those respondents said that planting more trees would improve their neighborhood.
Founded in 1990, Tree New Mexico is dedicated to assuring sustainable forests in urban and rural communities and natural areas through restoration, public education, and advocacy. This community-based nonprofit has been nationally recognized for outreach efforts that include over 130 communities in New Mexico and Arizona, 22 Native American tribes, and over 40 protected riparian areas.
At the time, the South Broadway neighborhood was making changes through various revitalization efforts. Tree New Mexico wanted to further this sense of pride and civic responsibility through tree plantings to make the neighborhood and adjacent areas more livable. Through a NeighborWoods Grant, Tree New Mexico was able to increase the capacity of the program and plant a greater number of trees than would normally be allotted to one neighborhood. Aside from funding partners, Tree New Mexico brought tree expertise. They advised on tree spacing, species selection, and planting.
The first step was to engage local residents by offering them opportunities to plant trees, improve their streetscapes, and get involved in their neighborhood. Residents of all ages received hands-on training about species selection, planting sites, tree care and, planting the right tree in the right place for the right reason. Residents saw that the whole community was behind them. For example, staff from the local Home Depot volunteered labor, attended trainings, and donated supplies.
Tree New Mexico served as the Project Coordinator and fiscal agent, providing overall program structure, grant reporting, and documentation, coordinating activity schedules, conducting regular check-ins, designing training programs, identifying sites for planting, and assisting in planting and maintenance.
Trees were mostly native and xeric to help ensure survivability and maintenance ease. If requested, medium water use trees were used, sparingly, and only with the approval of the City Forester along with a strong commitment from the resident. No high water use trees were used. Vegetation control was preformed by hand and a grass free band around all trees was established.
Tree New Mexico also developed a maintenance schedule with technical advice offered by the City Forester. Tree maintenance is the responsibility of the neighborhood associations and residents as stipulated in the Maintenance Agreement that they signed. Duties of the agreement include watering, pruning, weeding, and mulching, and is monitored by Tree New Mexico on a regular basis.
Many partners aided Tree New Mexico in making this program a success. They included:
* The City Forester consulted on species selection and training.
* United South Broadway Corporation provided community contacts, maps, and help with recruitment. This project also provided Tree New Mexico with an opportunity to partner with USBC’s Residential Façade Improvement and Fence program, which provides income eligible home owners the ability to improve the front of their homes with repairing or replacing doors, windows, paint, and fences for revitalizing the community as a whole.
* Albuquerque Parks Management Division provided technical expertise for training and maintenance protocols, use of equipment, assistance with the citizen trainings, free chipped composted wood mulch for residents, and supervision for the tree plantings.
Through the success and visibility gained through publicity of the South Broadway planting and training events, other neighborhood associations have inquired as to how Tree New Mexico can help them plant trees in their neighborhoods. So the project helped them to gain credibility with other neighborhoods and communities. Other results include:
* Planted 291 trees
* Conducted 7 trainings
* Engaged 334 volunteers for 960 contributed hours
Lessons Learned
1. Provide on-site instructions, handouts about specific tree species, and planting support to residents and volunteers. The greatest challenge for Tree New Mexico was gaining sufficient attendance at the trainings. On-site training ensured that even those who missed training workshops were still minimally prepared to maintain their trees.
2. Hold trainings during weekday evenings. People are less likely to attend trainings on the weekend.
3. Determine who is responsible for what (planting, maintenance, etc.), and hold them to it.
4. Follow-up with residents by phone and mail to ensure the health and success of trees.
5. Track tree survival rate and other information so as to have documented successes.
Contact Information:
Sue Probart
Executive Director
Tree New Mexico
P.O. Box 81827
6101 Anderson, S.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505-265-4554
Fax: 505-255-9197