Everything about a summertime walk through the city is made better by trees — the air is cleaner, the shade offers a cool respite from the sun — but not all neighborhoods enjoy the benefits of a robust tree canopy.
The nature conservation group Openlands and search engine Ecosia are hoping to boost the number of trees in underserved areas through their TreePlanters Grant Program. Openlands program coordinator Citlally Fabela said that the partnership’s ultimate goal is increasing tree equity across the city.
“We want to plant more trees in the Southwest Side. It’s our priority area because we have a high level of pollution on this side of the city, there are a lot of impervious surfaces, surfaces that absorb heat, which creates a thing called the heat island effect,” Fabela said. “Our mission is to get trees planted on this side of the city to expand the urban tree canopy because it has a lower than average tree canopy coverage.”
Last month, Openlands and a team of Thomas Kelly High School students who call themselves the “Truffula Club” got started on that mission.
“We showed up here with all our tools and our trees to get trees planted around Kelly High School,” said Fabela. “We planted four trees and the students actually helped us gather addresses for the TreePlanters grant. We got to plant 17 trees in the nearby neighborhood.”
Fabela encourages anyone interested in greening their neighborhood to apply for one at the Openlands website.
“The TreePlanters Grant is available for anybody in the city of Chicago or the south suburbs who wants to get a free tree planted in the public right-of-way, in the parkway, as long as they agree to water the tree,” Fabela said.