Street Tree Programs in the Racially Diverse Community

Lo, Julia
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University of Delaware
Researchers and practitioners have viewed tree-planting as contributing to an enhanced sense of community, the empowerment of inner-city residents to improve their own neighborhoods, and the promotion of environmental responsibility (Dwyer 1994). To understand and to promote this activity would therefore contribute to not only environment sustainability but also enriching a community. This research investigated the characteristics of the participants in street tree organizations that have programs in the racially diverse community. The analysis focuses on the racial composition of the staff and volunteers; the roles that staff and volunteers have within the organization; how the programs were started and how they are perpetuated. Case studies were conducted at three organizations that included nonprofit and municipal urban forestry departments: Parks & People of Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia Green of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Environment Action Coalition of New York, New York. Tree New Mexico of Albuquerque, New Mexico was included as a peripheral study. Assessments centered on the racial background and roles and functions of the participants; and the program and organization genesis and perpetuation. The author concluded that volunteers reflected the population in which they worked because they were recruited from the community. Staff did not reflect the race of the community. The success of the program may depend more on the ability of the staff to communicate with the community and their sense of community pride. The boards did not reflect the racial composition with the exception of one case study. The organization that had the most racially diverse board did not fundraise and was recruited from the community that they served. The research proved inconclusive on whether the generation of participants was greater than one (stipulating that participants are not immigrants). The community desire and initial support of the street tree-planting program was critical in all four case studies. During the initial years of the program, more time and money was spent on education rather than tree planting. Organizations played a supportive role to the community, providing them with resources and knowledge.
Urban forestry , Racial diversity , Street tree programs , Community