City unveils new tree management strategy for low-income neighborhoods

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh city administration has unveiled a new tree investment strategy to promote maintenance in low-income neighborhoods.

Mayor William Peduto and the City of Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission announced the Equitable Street Tree Investment Strategy Tuesday, which seeks to identify 10 low-income and low-canopy neighborhoods annually for focused, proactive and cyclical tree maintenance schedules, tree plantings and urban forest educational initiatives. The organization intends to improve the quality of life for current and future residents of these neighborhoods, according to a news release.

Improved maintenance will include pruning, sidewalk repair and stump removal and will be complemented by communication plans customized for each neighborhood, the release states.

This also includes the planting of 100,000 trees over the next decade.

“The members of the Shade Tree Commission are pleased to be able to help find more dollars to build on the maintenance work our Department of Public Works Forestry Division does every day. Growing this capacity will allow for the benefits of trees, including improving air quality, to equitably reach more Pittsburgh neighbors,” said Kristen Spirl, Shade Tree Commission Chair and Chatham University Arboretum Ground Manager.

Benefits of trees include improved air quality, reduced storm water runoff, reduced heat island effect, energy savings, increased sense of community and biodiversity. According to census records and street tree inventory data funded by the Shade Tree Commission, visualizations by the Create Lab at Carnegie Mellon University show low-income and Black communities disproportionately have fewer city street trees and thus see fewer benefits of trees. The Equitable Street Tree Investment Strategy will help to ensure the benefits of street trees are distributed equitably, the release states.

“The Forestry Division already uses inventory and mapping data to inform where we focus maintenance of our urban forest, and the city collaborates with many partners to stretch what we are able to do,” said city forester Lisa Ceoffe. “The Equitable Street Tree Investment Strategy will take that work further and be able to build even better trust for Pittsburghers to request street trees in the first place.”

The administration plans to announce the first phase of 10 neighborhoods by Arbor Day on April 30.

“We often hear the reluctance and weariness of residents to celebrate new tree plantings because they see damage to sidewalks and properties from earlier initiatives and are often responsible for care and maintenance that they are unprepared to provide,” said Jamil Bey, member of the Shade Tree Commission since 2015 and president of the UrbanKind Institute. “The Equitable Street Tree Investment Strategy acknowledges the community’s concerns and seeks to build trust by customizing communications and neighborhood invitations to participate. It will help the city be more effective with caring for trees in neighborhoods that have not seen much investment. As a member of the Shade Tree Commission, I am pleased to be part of contributing to this strategy for centering community voices in the pursuit of equity in city operations and duties.”