Libby Smith: Richmond Trees Strives to Raise a Forest in the City


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blogimage.jpgRichmond Trees is an all-volunteer group of Richmond residents with a vision for an urban forest that covers at least 40% of the city. Our mission is: To promote and grow the City of Richmond’s urban forest and green infrastructure through community planting, tree care, education and advocacy in order to improve the health and well-being of the diverse Richmond community.

The group was born in 2011 when some residents from the North & East neighborhood got together to brainstorm ways to get more trees planted in the area. Through a series of “Tea and Trees” meetings the group came up with a plan to canvas the neighborhood to spread the word about the city’s Adopt-A-Tree Program. The canvassing was so successful that the city was overwhelmed with requests. So the team got involved with helping in other ways. We began organizing planting events, developed a tree care program for ensuring that the new trees would thrive, and started fundraising to help pay for the trees, tools and educational materials needed.

unnamed2.jpgSeveral grants have helped the group grow our capacity. We have received grants from California ReLeaf, PG&E, and Veolia Water; and the Richmond Community Foundation funded the development of our website. We recently received a grant from the Rose Foundation for tree planting and youth development, and we are looking forward to working with YouthWORKS during this year’s planting season. 

Unfortunately, during tough municipal budget times, tree planting is often one of the first things to be cut. In Richmond, the Adopt-A-Tree Program is on hold until further notice. However, many residents are waiting for trees and more applications keep arriving. Richmond Trees is working with the city to work through the backlog. We are buying the trees and providing the labor. We currently have planting events planned for December 14, January 11, and February 15 with the possibility of adding more dates as needed.

Each of our volunteers has their own reasons for getting involved. Indeed the benefits of street trees are numerous – for any problem the city faces, having more trees is part of the solution.

  • Environment – Trees clean the air by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. They also absorb rainwater, reducing run off and preventing pollutants from going into creeks and waterways. And they provide habitat for wildlife critical to our ecosystem.
  • Economy – Street trees increase property values by 15% or more. Tree-lined commercial districts also report increased revenue. The shade provided by trees has a cooling effect and reduces energy costs for residents.
  • Crime – Studies show that a 10% increase in tree canopy is associated with a 12% decrease in crime. 
  • Health – Richmond is considered an impacted community. More trees will improve the air quality. Trees have also been shown to increase physical activity.  

about_page1.jpgThe main point is that a city with tree-lined streets is much more appealing than one dominated by concrete and asphalt. When a neighborhood is beautiful, people spend more time outdoors, and they are more active and engaged with their neighbors. So, something as simple as planting trees has ripple effects and ends up having a profound impact resulting in an increased quality of life. Studies continue to come out with additional reasons that a thriving urban forest is beneficial for all inhabitants in a city. And the investment is minor when you consider the rewards.  

At Richmond Trees, we believe that growing the urban forest should be a priority. With only 10% canopy, the situation here is woeful. As citizens who think this is important, we dedicate our own time, energy and money towards making a real change which will affect the city for generations to come.  

It’s worth noting that we are not the only ones interested in growing a healthy urban forest in Richmond. There are multiple groups with the same goal and that is a good thing! It is humbling work that is too big for one group, and we are very grateful for community partnerships with Groundwork Richmond, the Watershed Project and Pogo Park and significant continued support from Richmond Rotary and PG&E. Together we can accomplish our goal!

Let’s get it done.

There are many ways to help and get involved with our work! If you would like to, contact info@richmondtrees.org. Please check out our website at www.richmondtrees.org where you can subscribe to our online newsletter The Leaflet.


On December 14, you’re invited to join us to plant two dozen trees throughout Richmond’s North & East neighborhood! Meet at 8:30 am at 3007 Maricopa Ave on Sunday, December 14, 2014. Learn more here.


By: Libby Smith, Richmond Trees organizer

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