“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”, a Greek Proverb and the philosophy of most Landscape Architects for America’s future. Therefore, it is great when the majority of the world thinks of the Deep South or New Orleans, Louisiana they envision Oak Trees covered in Spanish moss lining streets and casting shade. While this is true for some areas of New Orleans, others such as Bywater, Seventh Ward, and Central City, are surprisingly barren.
For those who know the city and these tree barren areas, one might not find it a surprise New Orleans is the number one most deforested city in America. Much of this tree loss occurred after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, wiping out nearly 100,000 trees, 2,000 of those in City Park alone. In addition to this huge loss the average city looses 0.27% of urban forests each year due to everyday developments.
Trees provide numerous social and environmental benefits, without them New Orleans is suffering. These native Live Oaks provide charm and a sense of place as the softness contrasts the harsh cityscape. They can be used for practical purposes such as noise reduction and shade by increasing property values by 10% and reduce cooling costs by 30%. All of these factors reduce stress and enhance quality of life.
Environmental benefits include habitats for nearly 500 species of insects and invertebrates in a single Oak tree. Mature trees can absorb 120 to 240 pounds of pollutants from water and air a year while the Bald Cypress can absorb 880 gallons of water in one day reducing runoff and erosion. And, just two trees provide enough oxygen for one person a full year.
Because trees are so important, it’s wonderful New Orleanians have taken notice and are making efforts to increase New Orleans’ Urban Forest. 5,100 trees have been planted in City Park alone since 2005, including a variety of ten different live oak species. The environmental non-profit organization, Hike for KaTREEna has replanted nearly 20,000 plus trees and is continuing their mission.
Another major contributor, the non-profit Parkway Partners, has teamed up with other organizations, St. Claude Main Street and Broad Community Connections, to renovate communities in New Orleans. Together these organizations are replanting over 200 trees along two business corridors. Planting trees to increase walkability and enhance storefronts is the first step to reviving neighborhoods. Many locals have chosen to participate in Parkway Partner’s Tree Troopers program, which teaches volunteers how to choose, plant, and care for trees across the city.
Since 2005, Parkway Partners has assisted more than thirty-seven different neighborhoods using nearly 160 Tree Troopers planting more than 11,000 trees and committed to 10,000 more by 2017.
Although New Orleans tends to fall behind in many ways environmentally, this is one area where they’re taking measures to make the city healthier, safer, and more beautiful. What other ways have various global cities introduced tree-planting efforts in their city and how does it benefit surrounding communities?
Credits: Images by Allyson McAbee. Data linked to sources.