Openlands and Arbor Day Foundation will plant more than 130 trees in low-canopy areas of Chicago

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CHICAGO (April 24, 2023) Projects that originated from community requests for increased tree planting will be completed with the help of corporate partnerships facilitated by the Arbor Day Foundation. Part of this organization’s mission is to support green infrastructure that promotes social equity, ensuring all people have access to green space and its essential benefits.

Openlands works with communities throughout the City of Chicago and across the South, Southwest, and West Sides to improve their neighborhoods’ tree canopy and public health through these plantings. Arbor Day Foundation and corporate partners provide contributions to the tree plantings while offering the opportunity for employee engagement and volunteerism.

“One of the things the Arbor Day Foundation does best is to help local planting partners take meaningful action in their community to plant trees,” said Dan Lambe, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “We plant trees to improve the lives of people around us. We’re happy to help all the organizations foster a sense of community pride by planting trees.”

The areas where the trees will be planted are considered high-impact communities, where the trees will be put to work to improve air quality, manage stormwater, provide social benefits, and increase below-average urban tree canopy.

Openlands will continue our efforts to increase tree plantings on Chicago’s Southwest Side by adding 50 new trees along the historic California Boulevard and 25 trees to the nearby Little Village Park in South Lawndale, both essential green spaces for the surrounding community.

“We are better equipped than ever for a successful planting season. We have added some new equipment, including two new trailers that are increasing our efficiency dramatically. We also have six extremely competent Arborist Registered Apprentices (ARA) who are ready and eager to work and learn about urban forestry,” said Tom Ebeling, community arborist at Openlands. “The biggest improvement for this season is the addition of Tony Rodriguez to the TreePlanters Grant (TPG) team. Tony was trained through our original Forestry Trainee Program (class of 2020, pre-ARA), who has spent time in the tree care industry, and has returned to help coordinate the TPG program.” A native son of Chicago, Rodriguez focuses on Openlands’ Southwest Side priority area and increasing our engagement with the community there.

A highlight of this spring planting season will be supporting our new South Side partnership with Chicago State University, where we will plant 55 new trees on campus; the university is a cornerstone of the Roseland neighborhood and a vital community green space. At the request of our partners at the Chicago Park District, we will also plant 20 new trees at Wolfe Park in the East Side neighborhood.

All Arbor Day Foundation projects are in communities with lower-than-average tree canopy; these projects will increase future tree canopies and community resilience to climate change. Some of the diverse species of trees that will be planted include Ohio buckeye, common hackberry, several species that are particularly climate resilient such as sweetgum, and a variety of oak species. Oaks are one of the most beneficial trees to plant because they support many wildlife species in addition to providing all the other benefits of trees. For example:

  • Ecosystem services: Trees help with heat island mitigation, stormwater management and mitigation, noise pollution reduction, and air quality improvements and more in heavily industrialized communities.
  • Health and social services: Trees help to reduce respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, improve mental health outcomes, promote an active lifestyle, increase community cohesion, and save money on cooling.

Openlands has been planting trees in Chicago since the fall of 2013. This planting season will culminate with the organization planting our 9000th tree, a testament to the continued dedication of Openlands to communities in the city.

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