Watts Branch Park Housing Project

(Washington, DC) Casey Trees’ NeighborWoods-supported Watts Branch Park Housing Project provided the technical and financial landscaping resources for 18 houses of a 53-home affordable housing project under development by Habitat for Humanity.

Category: Community Development
In 2003, Casey Trees performed a comprehensive GIS inventory of street trees (taking special note of schoolyards, site plans, and affordable housing projects), and identified 10-40 percent more vacancy rates in the ward that includes neighborhoods west of the Anacostia River. Moreover, Watts Branch Park had been one of the most neglected and abused areas of Washington, DC. Working with the mayor’s office, Casey Trees helped to a master plan that includes extending green space and trees into adjacent neighborhoods including to schools and housing projects.
This project directly addressed the need to improve the environment and tree canopy in this sector of the community, thereby increasing its chances for success by fully involving residents. By focusing on the crime and stress-reducing tree benefits, Casey Trees was able to gain a foothold in the community. Residents from 18 Habitat for Humanity homes were directly involved, while additional neighborhood residents were recruited for planning, planting, and maintenance phases.
The work of Casey Trees is to improve the condition and extent of the trees and forests in the District of Columbia, The City of Trees. Fortunately, Casey Trees is uniquely structured to help for a very long time. Casey Trees has a major endowment to provide base program funding in perpetuity. Each fall and spring, Casey Trees joins with neighborhood groups, concerned citizens, and trained Citizen Foresters to develop and conduct community tree-planting projects. Enabling residents to plant and care for trees in their neighborhoods is an important part of their mission, and is essential for the long-term health of our trees.
The project combined the extensive community-building resources of three experienced and credible community organizations with a wealth of experience developing affordable housing, safe and healthy parks, urban forests and green space and sustainable neighborhoods. The groups all have demonstrated commitments to working with residents, students, and volunteers for long-term community revitalization.
Washington Parks & People was the on-the-ground planning and implement organization, largely following the park’s master plan. They helped with species selection, volunteer recruitment, and management. They will also maintain their trees for 2-5 years or more and is helping to establish environmental education programs in the park to train and inspire young residents to volunteer to maintain these and other trees and plants. Parks and People has a 15 year track record of sustainable projects and a special agreement with the DC Parks Department for stewardship of Watts Branch Park.
DC Habitat for Humanity organized and led planning efforts on their sites, and worked with those in the immediate neighborhoods. Habitat for Humanity and residents in homes it develops have long established practices to encourage sustainability.
And the DC Mayor’s office was integral in making the whole project run smoothly. Trees which are vandalized or succumb to accidents or disease will be replaced.
Casey Trees has developed uniquely strong relationships in its short history. The District Urban Forestry Administration assists them in obtaining all required permits and coordinating the identification of utilities prior to planting. Due to Casey Trees financial security, they have an extensive supply of tools, and work with partners who are expert in organizing and executing safe, productive events for volunteers.
* Planted 100 energy-conserving shade trees around 18 affordable housing units East of the Anacostia River built by Habitat for Humanity through 3 planting events.
* Taught residents of the value of trees and green space through 3 planning, planting, and maintenance workshops that will bring professional, credible resources to the community.
* Engaged 282 volunteers for 1,136 contributed hours.
Lessons Learned
* A sustainable plan must engage the residents in all phases of the work.
Contact Information:
Dan Smith
Communications Director
Casey Trees
1425 K Street, N.W., Suite 1050
Washington, DC 2005
Phone: 202-833-4010
Fax: 202-833-4092