Seattle’s urban forest is one of our most important assets – after all, we are the Emerald City. Our urban forest consists of all the trees in the city, including those along our streets, in our parks, and in our yards. Urban forests play an important role providing shelter to wildlife; filtering air, water, and sunlight; slowing wind and storm water runoff; reducing the heat island effect caused by paved surfaces; calming traffic; and increasing the vitality of commercial districts, among many other economic, social, and cultural benefits that increase our quality of life. To protect and grow this important asset, the City of Seattle has set a goal to increase the percentage of the city covered by trees (canopy cover) from our current 23% to 30% by 2037.
As part of the City’s efforts to reach this goal, OSE’s Urban Forestry team launched an exciting new Tree Ambassador program this spring in conjunction with the Cascade Land Conservancy. The Tree Ambassador program recruits volunteer residents to work in neighborhood teams. These teams act as stewards of the urban forest and serve as resources for their local community. Tree Ambassadors are trained in the basics of urban forestry, leadership, and community organizing. Each team then puts together projects aimed at engaging their neighbors in residential tree planting and care. The program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Forest Service’s Urban and Community Forestry program.
In its initial year, the Tree Ambassador program has seven neighborhood teams. These teams began training just three months ago, yet have already accomplished a lot, with more great work on the horizon. Some of the great projects the Tree Ambassadors have already done include:
- The Capitol Hill team mulched, weeded and cared for 113 street trees
- The Greenlake team received a grant from the Department of Neighborhoods to develop a mobile application for a Tree Walk around Greenlake Park
- The Maple Leaf team presented at their neighborhood ice cream social on the importance of conifers to their neighborhood
OSE’s vision is to have Tree Ambassador teams active in every Seattle neighborhood. If you are interested in supporting the tree canopy in your neighborhood, consider joining the fun and applying to be a Tree Ambassador yourself. The next round of applications will be in the spring of 2012.