Everything about a summer walk in the city is enhanced by trees – the air is cleaner, the shade offers cool respite from the sun – but not every neighborhood enjoys the benefits of a sturdy canopy.
Nature conservation group Openlands and search engine Ecosia hope to increase the number of trees in underserved areas through their TreePlanters grant scheme. Openlands program coordinator Citlally Fabela said the ultimate goal of the partnership is to increase tree equity across the city.
“We want to plant more trees on the Southwest Side. This is our priority area because we have a high level of pollution on this side of town, there are a lot of impermeable surfaces, surfaces that absorb heat, which creates what is called the island effect of heat,” Fabela said. “Our mission is to get trees planted on this side of town to expand the urban canopy, as it has below average canopy cover.”
Last month, Openlands and a team of Thomas Kelly High School students who call themselves the “Truffula Club” embarked on this mission.
“We showed up here with all of our tools and trees to plant trees around Kelly High School,” Fabela said. “We planted four trees and the students actually helped us gather addresses for the TreePlanters grant. We have to plant 17 trees in the neighboring neighborhood.
Fabela encourages anyone interested in greening their neighborhood to apply to Openlands website.
“The TreePlanters Grant is available to anyone in the City of Chicago or southern suburbs who wishes to have a tree planted for free in the public right-of-way, on the boardwalk, provided they agree to water the tree,” Fabella said.