For over 40 years, Delaware Center for Horticulture’s Community Forestry program has been increasing the urban tree canopy of the Wilmington (Delaware) region, with a goal of planting 20,000 trees by 2020. At 16% tree canopy cover in Wilmington, DCH’s tree steward and education programs promote the environmental, fiscal, and community benefits of trees to members, partner agencies and organizations, and the general public, specifically targeting underserved communities. Trees have a tremendous impact on the appearance of neighborhoods and provide measurable environmental, societal, and economic benefits. Lack of trees negatively impacts the quality of life in the poorest of neighborhoods. To ensure the neighborhoods in the most need of trees receive priority, DCH proposes an analysis looking at inequalities in income, population density, and race as it relates to Wilmington’s existing tree canopy. This analysis will form the basis of a strategy for outreach, prioritization, and implementation.
DCH offers multiple datasets to support the project in table format and ArcGIS layers. These include specific tree and park inventory data for Wilmington, including a record of DCH’s activities, and specific tree data such as tree species, size, planting/inventory date, and tree health. Other statewide urban forest canopy data are available from the Delaware Forest Service and Plant One Million campaign. Available base layers include municipal boundaries, land use, water features, census and demographic data, and various infrastructure. Through the FirstMap project (http://firstmap.delaware.gov/), the state of Delaware offers many datasets for free download. New Castle County also offers free and downloadable GIS data for specific land use, parcel, and planning themes. DCH also has a license with OpenTreeMap an open-source tree inventory platform.
We are interested in overlaying existing income, population density, and race data with Wilmington’s existing tree canopy and analyzing any relationship between those factors. This analysis will form the basis of a strategy for outreach, prioritization, and implantation of our Community Forestry program. It will identify neighborhoods in need of additional trees and to ensure we are equitable in our selection of projects. Inequalities in income, population density, and race data are all proxies for historic redlining. Redlining is a process used by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation program in the 1930s that delineated regions deemed too risky for federal mortgage assistance. These areas were largely minority and low-income. Unfortunately, we are unable to overlay redlining maps with tree canopy data as a source for Wilmington doesn’t exist but by selecting an analysis between proxies for redlining and tree canopy we can determine if inequalities exist in Wilmington’s greening efforts.
With a poverty rate of 26%, widespread occurrence of violent crime and gun violence among the city’s youth, the City of Wilmington faces a multitude of uphill struggles resulting from years of unemployment, poor educational opportunities, and unhealthy living conditions. DCH believes greening has a tremendous impact on Wilmington’s poorest neighborhoods and research has proven that greening interventions contribute to improvements in public health, raise property values, and stimulate new investment in neighborhoods. From an environmental perspective, it is also known that plants and trees clean the air, purify the water, reduce the heat island affect and help mitigate storm water runoff. Studies have also linked the greening of neighborhoods with lower crime, stress reduction, increased civic engagement, and an improved aptitude for learning. This analysis will ensure the neighborhoods in the most need of trees receive priority and will help DCH form a strategy for outreach, prioritization, and implementation.
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