Conservation Outdoors

Conservation: Reforesting Asheville

Samantha Trueman, GreenWorks community forestry coordinator at GreenWorks Native Tree Nursery, October 2020. Photo by Max Cooper

By Emma Castleberry

Asheville GreenWorks has been awarded a $50,000 grant from A Community Thrives, a grantmaking and crowdfunding program from the USA TODAY NETWORK that is part of the Gannett Foundation.

“The grant will be used to plant trees in partnership with residents of historically marginalized communities in Asheville and Buncombe County,” says Dawn Chávez, executive director of Asheville GreenWorks. “It will also be used to support our bi-annual tree giveaways and to grow trees in our native tree nursery until they’re ready to plant. It costs about $100 to grow and care for each of the trees in our nursery of over 2,000 plants.”

The grant process required a written grant application, which was submitted in September. After GreenWorks’ application was accepted, the organization was required to raise at least $6,000 before October 16, 2020, in order to be considered for the grant. GreenWorks raised nearly $7,000 in a crowdfunding campaign online. The organization was one of 16 grant recipients out of 900 applicants, and the only grant recipient in the Southeast.

Former GreenWorks executive director Susan Roderick at Love Your Trees event, 2018. Photo by Parker Bobbitt

Patrick George, owner of and a long-time arborist, donated to the grant campaign as soon as he learned about it. “My biggest realization—beyond how important trees are to our lives—is that, to keep trees in our future, we have to be proactive and plant today, tomorrow and every year while we can,” he says.

In the application, GreenWorks referenced three studies that show “the literal hot spots in Asheville; locations that have residents with the highest heat vulnerability, including families living below the poverty line and households with members 65 years of age and older that live in proximity to developed land cover, low tree canopy and high land surface temperatures.” Many of these hot spots are public housing developments, and the most effective strategy for mitigating these spots is planting trees. “Some neighborhoods, like Hillcrest Apartments, are also located next to major highways that subject residents to relatively high levels of particulates in the air they breathe, further exacerbating respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 and asthma,” says Chávez. “Strategically planting trees helps intercept airborne particulate matter, clean the air and provide the cool relief of shade during summertime heatwaves.”

The tree planting projects and giveaways are part of GreenWorks’ ambitious goal to restore the City’s tree canopy to 50 percent by the year 2040, by planting 2,500 trees each year. GreenWorks has committed to planting 1,000 of the 2,500 trees and will work with citizens, businesses, organizations and the local government to plant the remaining 1,500 trees annually. “While planting trees cannot right the wrongs done to Black communities in Asheville through redlining and urban renewal,” says Chávez, “trees can help repair both the environment and relationships throughout Asheville.”

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