The Urban Forestry division of Raleigh Parks will be planting 1,000 street trees over 3 years. The street tree planting program supports initiatives outlined in the City of Raleigh’s Strategic Plan, including improving the urban forest and reducing environmental inequities across the City of Raleigh.
In early Summer 2021, staff within the City of Raleigh, Urban Forestry division asked two questions: 1) Are street trees in Raleigh equally distributed? and 2) Are street trees in Raleigh equitably distributed? Asking, and more importantly, answering these questions is a priority to the Urban Forestry Division as trees provide many benefits that may not be equally accessible to all Raleigh citizens.
First, Urban Forestry partnered with members of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources GIS team to create a map. Street trees were identified from an existing City tree data set. A series of filters were applied to identify tree distribution along streets. From this map, Urban Forestry determined that street trees are not equally distributed in Raleigh.
This finding brought Urban Forestry to the more difficult question: Are street trees equitably distributed in Raleigh? The GIS team members added layers like the Wake County Social Vulnerability Index and the Racially or Ethnically Concentrated Areas of Poverty. Overlapping the social index layers with the street tree density map identified a cluster of neighborhoods southeast of Raleigh’s downtown center. Based on the data, it appears that street trees are not equitably distributed in Raleigh.
While these maps are invaluable, Urban Forestry set out to double check the data with a walking street tree inventory conducted by Urban Forestry inspectors. They identified trees in the right-of-way and locations where trees are missing but could be planted in the future.
This final data set was added to the map and told an unsatisfactory, yet hopeful story – street trees may not be equally or equitably distributed in Raleigh, but there are planting opportunities to lessen this inequity.
On November 1, 2022, City Council approved a street tree planting contract to plant over 1,000 street trees in the neighborhoods southeast of downtown.
The first planting season will begin in January 2023 and focuses on areas in front of schools, churches, parks, and other public places located just southeast of downtown Raleigh. The subsequent planting seasons will continue to fill in those areas but will also include plantings in front of single-family dwellings. The planting season typically runs from January through the end of March.