By Mary Velan
New York City is planing its one millionth new tree, putting it two years ahead of schedule to finish the goal within a 10-year span. When the city launched its MillionTreesNYC campaign eight years ago, it was one component of the larger PlaNYC initiative designed to make the city more sustainable.
The New York Restoration Project nonprofit partnered with the city to plant one million trees to ensure all residents had access to the many benefits of a lush, green landscape including:
- Improved air quality
- Filtering stormwater
- Happier residents
- Increased mental alertness
- Reduced rates of chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes
The initiative has inspired other similar campaigns to launch across the country in cities such as Boston, LA and Denver.
Through the partnership between the New York City Parks Department and the nonprofit organization, the city was able to reach its goal faster than expected due to extensive engagement with members of the community. The city parks department planed about 750,000 of the one million trees in parks and along streets while the nonprofit organization planted trees on other public lands such as housing projects, libraries, airports and churches. The nonprofit also awarded trees to individual residents interested in planting one on their property, Fast Coexist reported.
Furthermore, the partnership with the nonprofit organization has helped the city acquire money to support the project. While the parks department could only use as much taxpayer funding as was allocated in the city budget, the nonprofit organization was able to contribute an additional $30 million for tree planting generated through grants, donations and corporate gifts. Wherever the city found a roadblock, the nonprofit was able to fill the gaps through private funding and operations, Fast Coexist reported.
Green Space Land Purchase
Just as NYC has made tree planting a priority, other communities are finding ways to preserve green space in the face of rising developments. The Open Space Institute in New York recently purchased a 416-acre parcel of land in the Moodna Creek Watershed for $881,000 in an effort to protect a scenic natural area from regional development. The land purchased houses two hiking trails that meet in the Hudson Valley, and is bordering on a highway and subdivision development. The purchase is part of a larger Moodna Creek Watershed Conservation and Management Plan, Epoch Times reported.
The Open Space Institute will transfer the sale of the land to the state park system, and may be used for a proposed connection between Schunnemunk Mountain and other regional state parks. The goal is to create an interconnected network of protected green-space in a region full of new development plans.
“We are very pleased to have been involved with this acquisition of 420 acres of significant open space in the Hudson River Valley,” said D. Ben Benoit, Executive Director of The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, Inc. “The Foundation’s program-related investments enable land conservation groups to move quickly in making key land acquisitions in New York and Connecticut. The Mountain Lodge project is an illustration of how program-related investments can accelerate the pace of land conservation.”
OSI has a longtime commitment toward creating and adding to New York’s state parks. The Institute has added more than 40,000 acres to the state’s park systems in almost 80 purchases over the past 40 years.
Why This Matters
There has been extensive research conducted on the many benefits of green space and residents’ access to it on a regular basis. The perks of seeing trees and plants, and walking around outside, include improvements to mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Here are some of the leading studies in case you need proof:
- Parks and trees refresh our brains naturally, like sleep
- 15-minute walks in nature lead to positive emotions
- Nature can provide mood improvements even in major depressive cases
- Londoners living near street trees were prescribed fewer antidepressants
- Nature has an impact on harmful rumination that can fight depression
- Increased access to green space nearby leads to a spike in life satisfaction
- There is a clear association between nature and reduced mortality for many different causes of death
- Strong evidence linking the quantity of residential green space with mortality and perceived general health
- Having 10 more trees on a city block improves perceived health on par with being seven years younger or $10,000 richer
- Exposure to nature helps people recover more quickly and completely from physiological stressors
- Walks outside help people focus on their tasks
- Denser forests offer increased benefits, but even just a view of nature offers cognitive perks
- Exposure to nature has been linked to managing children with ADHD and those without
- Tests show nature helps reduce aggression as well as inhibit impulsivity
- When driving, views of natural landscapes reduce road rage and improve patience
And when residents are happier and healthier, communities and economies are able to thrive.