VCU students helped plant 62 trees in the Carver neighborhood Nov. 17-18 as part of the first planting event of the Carver Tree Project.
“Trees are great in an urban environment because they provide shade, filter the air we breathe lessening the impacts of global warming, and filter stormwater,” said Wyatt Carpenter, one of the main coordinators of the Carver Tree Project. “Carver has one of the lowest tree canopies in the city.”
Virginia Department of Forestry, Richmond Tree Stewards, Carver Area Civic Improvement League (CACIL) and VCU Center for Environmental Studies collaborated on the project for a year after receiving a grant from the VCU Division of Community Engagement.
“I think that once people realize how successful the Carver Tree Project actually is, the more communities are going to try to emulate this project,” said Jerome Legions, CACIL president. “I hope the Carver Tree Project becomes the Urban Tree Project, spreading out to the city of Richmond.”
The Carver Tree Project, however, is not just about planting trees. The project coordinators created a maintenance program with VCU faculty, students and staff and Richmond Tree Stewards, ensuring the correct long-term care of the trees.
“During the project, a lot of people came out of their houses to ask what we were doing or about the trees we were planting.” said Emma Foster, VCU freshman and Carver Tree Project volunteer. “The smiles on their faces and their interest in this effort shows how just one weekend of planting trees can bring together such a diverse group and make the Carver community feel more part of Richmond as a whole.”
The installation of trees benefits the overall urban environment. However, according to a study led by Assistant Professor of Biology at Northern Kentucky University Kirsten Schwarz, wealthier neighborhoods are more likely to have more and denser trees, and in some cities like Los Angeles and Sacramento, a strong negative correlation exists between minority neighborhoods and urban tree canopy.
“In neighborhoods that are not so affluent, you are not going to spend the money on a tree when you are talking about living in a food desert,” Legions said. “The Carver Tree Project is not an affluent project and is a true collaboration between VCU and Carver to make Carver look more aesthetically pleasing, healthier, and safer.”
A team of researchers led by University of Chicago psychology professor Marc Berman found in their study that “having ten or more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase to an annual personal income of $10,000.”
“The mission of the Carver Area Civic Improvement League is to make Carver a better place to live, work, and visit, and they saw trees as a way to meet that mission,” Carpenter said. “We at VCU are interested in planting trees to offset some of our carbon emissions from the university. [The Carver Tree Project] was a great way to use tree planting to meet goals for two different organizations.”