Detroit officials will invest $30 million in funding to plant thousands of trees in city neighborhoods and are hoping the greenery will protect against climate change and improve residents’ quality of life.
The city of Detroit, along with DTE Energy and other community partners, launched the Detroit Tree Equity Partnership which will plant 75,000 trees in city neighborhoods over the next five years. Officials say the effort will help hire more than 300 workers for jobs related to tree care and maintenance.
The investment will also grow the city’s tree canopy which could improve clean air requirements and support Detroiters respiratory health.
Mayor Mike Duggan made the announcement Tuesday morning along with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, D-Lansing. Duggan said the city wants to plant trees in areas that are mostly concrete, like scrap yards or freeway service drives.
“Can you imagine what the city would look like if you managed to do two things at once – planted 75,000 trees for the environment, but also created sites of beauty where people have been staring at scrap yards,” Duggan said during Tuesday’s press conference.
American Forests, a national nonprofit that works to create and maintain healthy forests, found that Detroit neighborhoods with lower incomes tend to have fewer trees and lack natural protections against extreme weather events and other threats.
Neighborhoods like Barton-McFardland and the Littlefield Community on the city’s west side and Buffalo Charles and Airport Sub on the city’s east side scored lowest on the American Forests Tree Equity Score tool, which measures tree canopy coverage across socioeconomic lines. The inequity is something Duggan hopes this program will address.
“It may seem like a small thing, but having a tree canopy can affect air quality and asthma rates, air conditioning costs, flood resilience and more,” Duggan said.
Senator Stabenow said planting more trees will help reduce the adverse effects of carbon emissions and reduce flooding by absorbing stormwater.
“The more (trees you plant), the more you are taking carbon out of the atmosphere and addressing the climate crisis, while doing so many other things, in terms of quality of life, for the community,” Stabenow said.
Some funding for the program comes from the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act which was supported by Stabenow.
Whitney Smith, project manager with the city’s General Services Department, said the project hasn’t been fully funded yet, but the city plans to secure additional monies to complete the project.
The goal of the Detroit Tree Equity Partnership is to plant 15,000 trees a year for the next five years.
The partnership includes nonprofit organizations Detroit Future City and The Greening of Detroit. Detroit Future City is a local policy organization that studies how water quality, land use and climate issues impact residents among other equity initiatives. The Greening of Detroit is a nonprofit that seeks to improve the health and comfort of Detroiters by planting trees and trains residents for jobs related to landscaping and maintenance.
Lionel Bradford, president of The Greening of Detroit, said he wants to help residents understand why trees are vital to the community.
“People are about how to put food on the table and jobs,” Bradford said. “So the more trees we can plant, the more people we can train, the more jobs we provide.”
Landscaping, Bradford said, can be a seasonal job – meaning there’s less work for people during the winter months – but he said the opportunities still offer workers skills like first aid training.
Xaolin Coleman, a returning citizen and Detroiter who works with The Greening of Detroit, said he had to “readjust” after six years in prison and is appreciating the positive impact of his work.
Coleman hopes others “jump at the opportunity.”
Learn how to apply for jobs with The Greening of Detroit organization.