Urban Tree Grant
Southeast Sustainable Communities Fund has invested $1.5 million in grants across six Southeast communities. The grants are to be used to implement equitable solutions to local climate change challenges. The goal of the Urban Forestry/Green Jobs grant is to engage the communities in the planning process and mutually benefit both the City of Savannah and the neighborhoods. The City was awarded this grant in January, 2018 for two years.
The goals of the City of Savannah Urban Tree Nursery Project are:
- Engage Community Youth
- Enhance Workforce Skills
- Grow Our Urban Forest
City staff identified three vacant City-owned properties on which to conduct this pilot project:
District 1 Augusta Ave.
District 2 East Gwinnett
District 5 Mills B. Lane
Urban Forestry/Green Jobs Grant
The intent of the grant is to use existing vacant lots within the City as sites for urban tree nurseries. Partners are piloting a project to transform vacant City-owned lots into urban tree nurseries by purchasing small trees at a reduced cost, raising them for one to three years, and then moving them to permanent planting locations. These sites will seed and nurture over 500 trees that will ultimately be transferred to locations throughout the city where they can assist in mitigating flooding impacts while enhancing public space and private properties. This will help to replenish the tree canopy and add capacity for water storage.
The project includes a paid landscape management apprenticeship and job placement program, providing practical skills to unemployed and underemployed residents. Trainees will develop skills to meet growing workforce needs, helping to manage Savannah’s sensitive landscapes and improve its overall resilience to intense storms.
Over the course of the next year, the trainees will be participating in 200 hours of on-site training, working toward their Georgia Certified Landscape Professional accreditation provided through UGA’s Center for Urban Agriculture .
A partnership with WorkSource Coastal will allow apprentices the opportunity to be paid to manage trees at the nurseries after trainings end, and to receive GED training and additional job placement services. Already, the project team has held two recruitment sessions for the landscape management apprentice program, culminating in a 32-hour training workshop for 19 participants in December, 2018.
The City of Savannah, UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and partners have engaged neighborhoods most affected by flooding and tree damage to share education on the importance of trees, their role in water management, and green infrastructure. Through these events, partners have built trust with citizens and collected input that helped determine sites for the green infrastructure projects. Partners also worked with UGA students in a landscape architecture studio to develop conceptual designs for implementing green infrastructure on vacant lots.
The grassroots arts organization, Loop it Up Savannah, will engage neighborhood children by having them participate in painting tree pots and adding other artistic elements. Most importantly, the project will engage citizens in the process and create ownership in neighborhood revitalization.
Savannah’s architecture and urban design have historically helped moderate its hot and humid climate. Savannah’s famous live oaks fill its squares and line the streets, providing shade and making summer days tolerable. But intensifying hurricanes and storms are causing significant damage to the tree canopy, costing millions in tree debris removal and unknown losses in water storage from mature trees. Lower income neighborhoods often see damages first, as they contain many low-lying, flood-prone lots and often have poorly maintained tree canopies.
The benefits of urban trees include a reduction in storm water runoff and soil erosion, reduced water pollution, increased value in surrounding properties and the process of sequestration of carbon dioxide. Carbon sequestration is the absorption of carbon dioxide by trees, plants and grasses to help offset sources of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, caused by forest fires, fossil fuel emissions and deforestation. In addition, urban trees reduce building heating and cooling costs, cool and purify the air and can reduce asthma rates and encourage walking, benefiting both residents and the environment.