Plant More Shade Trees in Low Income Neighborhoods

Target: Bobby Vincent, Jr., Director, Richmond Department of Public Works

Goal: Plant more shade trees in low income neighborhoods throughout Richmond.

Shade trees are a vital resource many take for granted. They keep the earth cooler, especially paved surfaces more susceptible to absorbing the sun’s rays. Trees with large canopies provide greater filtration of harmful pollutants. Beyond the environmental benefits, having green spaces available in neighborhoods has positive effects on mental and physical health. A study at Texas A&M University even found a connection between patients recovering from surgery and their access to natural views from hospital rooms.

As people flock to urban areas, it is estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Richmond is no exception and has a lot of work to improve its urban tree density, especially in lower income areas. For example, according to the Virginia Commonwealth University Office of Sustainability, the Carver neighborhood rates in the lowest percentile of income and has less than 10% tree canopy cover; the city average is 26%. In comparison, the American Forests organization claims the national average for tree coverage is 43% in more affluent neighborhoods. Districts like these are not without the means to house more trees as the same VCU office found 190 empty tree wells in Carver illustrating how previously planted trees were not maintained or cared for.

It is important to differentiate canopy versus landscaping trees. Canopy trees provide all the pros above. Landscaping trees offer far from the same degree of benefits. Think trees in mall parking lots. These tree varieties are small and low maintenance, which also limits their contributions. Often they are planted in lower income neighborhoods as a quick and easy solution to efforts in tree equality. Visit a neighborhood with landscaping trees and then one with shade trees. The disparities are easy to distinguish.

Sign the petition below to urge Bobby Vincent towards expanding the network of shade trees in Richmond’s lower income neighborhoods.


Dear Director Vincent,

People are flooding cities for opportunities like jobs, accessibility of amenities, and flourishing social settings. One thing new and existing citizens both need are what some call urban nature. This includes green space and most importantly, shade trees. Lower income neighborhoods in Richmond and other metropolitan locales seem to get overlooked when these vital resources are implemented and maintained, so it is time for your city to break the mold. Adding and keeping up canopy providing trees in neighborhoods lacking them are surefire ways to improve the quality of life for those already living in the city as well is creating attractive options for new residents.

Cities tend to be much warmer than surrounding areas, one reason shade trees are essential for all Richmond neighborhoods. Beyond just filtering more warming gasses such as carbon dioxide, tree canopies allow residents to move more comfortably on foot and by other means of transportation, which is especially critical for commuters without cars. Aside from cooling outdoor areas, trees keep houses and apartment buildings from soaking up the sun’s rays. In turn, cooling bills can be less burdensome. The benefit goes beyond the consumer and saves unnecessary strain on the power grid along with all the positive, accompanying, environmental implications. All these factors are paramount to consider since lower income neighborhoods tend to have denser populations and thus greater infrastructure needs.

Finally, planting more trees is not a project needing to be started from the ground up. Many neighborhoods already have dozens of tree wells already built into streets, sidewalks, and other areas ready to bolster their tree populations. All that is left is to make sure these plots are addressed when your department makes its rounds to plant more trees. Subsequently, it is of the utmost importance to include new trees in your care, upkeep, and maintenance work in order to allow them to reach peak height and serve all intended purposes.

The Richmond Department of Public Works needs a concrete plan to address the lack of shade trees in lower income neighborhoods. Aside from the already alarming disparity of tall trees throughout Richmond, the benefits also affect other public works and the city on a broader scale. Take action now to plant and maintain canopy trees where they are needed.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Wil540 art

One Comment

  1. This idea is a good addition. Shade is everything when the temperatures are so hot. Asphalt roads in cities causes so much heat in a congested zone without the assistance of wind. Trees would be so beneficial.

    Ok … let’s plant!

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