New tree equity initiative planted largest number of trees in a single year in Chicago history.
Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined the Department of Streets and Sanitation, Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Department of Public Health, and the Chicago Park District to plant the 18,000th tree early last December, exceeding the city’s pledge to plant 15,000 trees each year for the next five years, starting in 2022.
“Delivering on bold, equitable climate goals is critical to ensuring our city can thrive,” says Mayor Lightfoot. “I am thrilled to mark this milestone in our journey to fight the climate crisis while revitalizing and beautifying our neighborhoods. Though we have surpassed our 2022 goal, I look forward to the continued work of increasing the city’s tree canopy with a focus on equity in the years to come.”
In 2021, Mayor Lightfoot launched Our Roots Chicago, a new tree strategy with $46 million of funding through the Chicago Recovery Plan, which aims to plant 75,000 trees over the next five years. The goals include equitably planting trees where they are needed most, increasing stewardship of public trees, and expanding community engagement and participation around the many benefits trees can bring to city neighborhoods.
Our Roots Chicago encompasses the Chicago 2022 Climate Action Plan and the city’s commitment to environmental justice and equity. The program also includes a new community tree ambassador program, led by the Chicago Department of Public Health, which trains and educates residents on the benefits and the care of trees, possible locations for trees, and how to request a tree from the city.
“Trees are our communities’ most valuable asset when mitigating the effects of and building resiliency around climate change,” says Angela Tovar, chief sustainability officer for the Office of the Mayor. “We know that certain Chicago communities are experiencing hotter summer temperatures, poorer air quality, and severe flooding. These are the same neighborhoods that need more trees and green infrastructure. We are excited to continue expanding the network of tree ambassadors across communities and work with residents to strengthen the tree canopy in their community.”
The city hosts monthly meetings with a diverse 70-member community-based Tree Equity Working Group that advises, partners, and works with the city to help improve the tree canopy.
The city’s current tree vendor, Seven-D Construction Co., is planting the trees, and per the contract, the trees are required to be purchased within 200 miles of Chicago. The contract also includes a two-year maintenance period for watering and pruning, and when a tree is planted, the city provides a door hanger at the time of planting, which asks residents to water the tree on a weekly basis for the first year.
For long-term maintenance, the Department of Streets and Sanitation Bureau of Forestry has hired additional staff who will be working on trimming the urban tree canopy citywide.
In addition to planting over 18,000 trees in one year, the city has streamlined the tree request process by reducing the wait time for a new tree from three years to a few months. Residents can call 311 or download the CHI311 app to request the Bureau of Forestry to plant a parkway tree.
More information is available on the Our Roots Chicago website: chicago.gov/OurRoots.