A billion trees for the world? City to do its part

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Providence landscape is set to get a bit greener thanks to Trees 2020 – a campaign launched by the city’s parks department and Groundwork Providence, a local nonprofit.

The program is a response to a study conducted by Doug Still, the city forester, that found that as lush as the city may seem, only 23 percent of it is covered by a tree canopy, said Ray Perrault, the director of Trees 2020. The project’s funding comes from the Helen Walker Raleigh Tree Care Trust of the Rhode Island Foundation.

Seeking to persuade property owners across the city to plant 40,000 trees by the year 2020, the campaign, with its motto – “Plant a Tree for Providence, See Good Things Grow” -­­ officially started last Wednesday.

Trees 2020 would subsidize costs for anyone who agrees to plant trees as a part of the cause. Local nursery owners would charge participants between $55 to $75 per plant, said Perrault. The program will also offer participants advice about the trees that they can plant and ways to care for them.

The project will be the city’s contribution to the United Nations’ goal of planting a billion trees worldwide to curb global deforestation, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

“Trees can grow property values, provide shade for our residents to enjoy and a place for our kids to play,” Mayor David Cicilline ’83 said in the release. “They can also help everyone save on energy costs by blocking blustery winter winds and simmering summer sun, and they have a profound effect on the health of our environment by reducing our carbon footprint and replenishing the amount of oxygen in the air.”

According to Perrault, trees can even decrease crime rates because more trees mean the temperature will be an average of 10 degrees lower, helping people not to lose their heads due to the heat.

Perrault also said there is a sentimental value to planting a tree, which is like “the best bank account in the world” because it offers “hundreds of years of enjoyment and pleasure,” he said.

“When you plant a tree knowing that someone can enjoy its shade years later, it’s a great feeling.” Perrault said. “There are so few things in our lives that can touch someone on the other side like that.”

Perrault said that he would like students from Brown and other college students in the area to get involved with the project, adding that the University should also consider planting on its campus.

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