Philadelphia, coined the City of Brotherly Love, is home to a park system of 10,500 acres of which 5,600 acres are natural lands. The city is bolstered by a “green support system” of woodlands, wetlands, open meadows, and even old growth forests. These forests filter the city’s water, purify the air, and provide a reprieve from the hustle of city life. William Penn’s founding vision for Philadelphia was that it would be a ‘green country towne’ and that spirit continues today.
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (PPR) has been managing the city’s urban forest for over 100 years. Today, this includes trees in more than 300 neighborhood parks, along 166 miles of trails, within 60 community gardens, farms and orchards, while also fostering learning through three environmental education centers.
Philadelphia’s inner and nearby forests are under threat from development, invasive species including exotic woody vines, and invasive insects including the emerald ash borer and recently the arrival of the destructive spotted lanternfly. Diminished tree cover in urban areas has resulted in an urban heat island and the loss of countless free ecosystem services with some neighborhoods feeling the burden more than others. In response to these threats, the city has set a goal to increase tree canopy cover to 30% in all neighborhoods and is tapping into the power of local communities to help restore the urban and nearby forests.
TreePhilly, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation’s community forestry program, is working to increase the canopy cover on private property through free tree giveaway campaigns. To date the program has given away over 23,000 trees to local residents and engaged more than 9,000 Philadelphians. Tree drives such as these operate neighborhood by neighborhood, share information and provide advice about tree care, raise awareness about the importance and benefits to residents brought by urban forests, and builds community buy-in for long-term maintenance and care.
Through marketing campaigns targeted at the public, TreePhilly engages residents and honors tree advocates while building awareness of the urban forests and the many benefits they provide to residents including reducing energy costs, cleaning the air, beautifying neighborhoods and bringing communities together.
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation also sponsors strategic restoration projects staffed by resident volunteers who plant trees, remove invasive vines and weeds, clean up trash from parks and waterways, restore trails, and in the process learn about the local forests.
Through these community-based forestry initiatives, Philadelphia is becoming The City of Arborly Love.