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In Hunting Park, free trees come with an open mind
Philly

In Hunting Park, free trees come with an open mind

Planting more trees in the North Philly neighborhood will help residents beat the heat.

To help persuade more Philly residents to adopt a sustainable lifestyle, meet people where they are and leave the judgement behind.

That was the message several Hunting Park environmental leaders gave Friday to dozens of Germantown Friends School 8th graders during its second annual Seeking Solutions Day.

Cheyenne Flores, a climate resiliency fellow with the city’s Office of Sustainability, encouraged the students to recognize others for the steps they have taken (Nice reusable shopping bag!) without judging them for their lack of action elsewhere (But where’s your reusable water bottle?).

“Everyone is at their own stage in their sustainability journey,” she said as part of a panel on environmental change in Hunting Park.

Collaborative cool-down

One of the city’s hottest and most heat vulnerable neighborhoods (an area where residents are most likely to be harmed by a period of hot weather), Hunting Park is about 2 miles southeast of the K-12 school.

On a sweltering summer day, temperatures in Hunting Park can be up to 22°F hotter than the coolest city neighborhood and 7°F hotter than Philadelphia’s average.

Instead of taking a prescriptive approach, the city’s pilot Beat the Heat Hunting Park Initiative embraced inclusive practices.

The Heat Team conducted surveys and collaborated with residents to identify where cooling interventions – like tree plantings, cool roofs, cooling spaces and bus shelters – could best serve their neighborhood.

“Everyone has a place in this movement,” said Flores, who coordinates Beat the Heat.

A place for 8th graders (and you)

Four blocks away from the GFS campus, 8th grader Dean DeSeve took notes as Tree Philly staffers explained how to identify a sycamore tree in Vernon Park.

“It’s interesting to see the disparities in the communities in terms of trees and how that will impact the communities in the future with climate change,” Dean said.

Tree Philly is aiming to achieve 30 percent tree canopy cover in every Philadelphia neighborhood. In Hunting Park, “tree canopy is only 9 percent, compared to 19 percent in Philadelphia and 48 percent in neighborhoods like Chestnut Hill,” according to city data.

Eighth graders from Germantown Friends School use touch to identify a tree in Vernon Park / Alison Burdo

Tree Philly also meets Philadelphians wherever they are on their “sustainability journey.” The program works with neighbors to determine the best type of tree for their area, and offers to teach them how to plant and care for it.

Wilson taught Dean and his classmates how to collect data on Vernon Park’s tree life – citizen science skills they can use to support the city’s efforts to track its street trees.

For Dean and his classmates, it’s a chance to contribute to Philadelphia’s environmental legacy.

“The takeaway was to try to do what you can for your community.”


Click here to learn about other opportunities to support Tree Philly.

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Alison Burdo
Alison Burdo is a project manager with Green Philly, focusing on the development and execution of its coverage of the Delaware Watershed. A Philadelphia-based journalist for the past seven years, Burdo most recently supported the launch of the Initiative for Better Gun Violence Reporting. Her experience includes reporting exclusive, enterprise stories on the 2015 papal visit and the 2016 Democratic National Convention; leading an investigation into the epidemic of unsolved missing persons cases; and regularly breaking news related to Philadelphia's precedent-setting soda tax. View all posts by Alison Burdo

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