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The future of the urban forest: Philadelphia’s Strategic Plan for a healthy, equitable tree canopy.

The City of Philadelphia is launching its first ever urban forest strategic planning process. In support of citywide equity and sustainability goals, the plan will set out a 10-year strategy to grow, protect, and care for Philadelphia’s tree canopy, and set forth new ways of working with residents to combat climate change.

The plan will provide recommendations to the City and its partners on how to best coordinate and strengthen their work on tree planting and maintenance, and what role policy can play to support a more tree-friendly culture across the city.

The final plan will be guided by the following vision, mission, and goals:

Vision: Philadelphia will be home to a resilient and equitably distributed urban forest that helps residents thrive in every neighborhood of our city. Trees on public and private land in the city will be recognized as a vital part of city infrastructure and will provide environmental, social, economic and health benefits for all present and future Philadelphians. Our urban forest will be a source of pride for Philadelphians and will inspire advocacy and participation in tree planting and protection throughout the city.

Mission: To establish a 10 year strategic plan for the planting and care of the urban forest, guided by values of environmental justice, community engagement, and sustainability.

Goals:

  • To communicate the social, economic and ecological value of the urban forest
  • To prioritize equity in service delivery, ensuring that the most vulnerable and underserved communities benefit from a healthy tree canopy
  • To facilitate collaboration and identify clearly defined roles among City agencies, nonprofits, scientists and engaged residents
  • To plan for the proactive planting and care of our urban forest
  • To identify funding goals and strategies for Philadelphia’s urban forest
  • To propose strong and enforceable public policy for the protection of our city trees
  • To build a culture of trust and collaboration between Philadelphia residents and the institutions that serve our urban forest

Consultants will begin work in October 2020, and the planning process is estimated to take 12 months; check back on this site for updated information. A comprehensive public engagement effort will accompany the plan to gather input from stakeholders, community groups, and residents. Residents and media can join a mailing list to learn details as they are released in the coming months.

Tree Canopy Assessment

The plan will be informed by the 2019 Philadelphia Tree Canopy Assessment, research commissioned by the City to map Philadelphia’s current tree cover. In the 10 years since the City’s first comprehensive tree canopy assessment was completed, pockets of the city have seen improved canopy. However, a loss of trees on residential land and a decrease in trees along streets have seen Philadelphia’s overall tree canopy decrease by 6 percent between 2008 and 2018. View the original 2011 Philadelphia Tree Canopy Assessment here.

Residents can also view this data with an interactive map of the city’s tree canopy, thanks to Fairmount Park Conservancy.

Pre-Plan Public Engagement Work 

Prior to beginning work on the urban forest strategic plan, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Urban Forest Strategic Plan project team convened a citywide Philadelphia Tree Summit of urban forestry stakeholders from across the city, state and region.  On December 5th, 2019, over 100 representatives from 50 different non-profits, community organizations, funding partners, City departments, and government agencies attended a meeting at the Discovery Center in the city’s Fairmount Park.  The goals of the event were to: respond to the newly-released Tree Canopy Assessment report which analyzes the current tree canopy in the city, and change over 10 years; and to identify the key challenges facing Philadelphia’s urban forest that should be addressed in the upcoming urban forest strategic plan effort, including steps for prioritizing equity in that process. The Tree Summit Report can be found here.

Urban Forest Strategic Plan Chosen Consultant 

Hinge Collective LLC and its sub-consultant team will lead the planning process to develop the City’s first-ever urban forest strategic plan. Hinge Collective is a public interest design firm with a passion for interpreting the vision of a community into vibrant and inspiring spaces. The firm was selected by a panel of representatives from Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, the Office of Sustainability, Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Philadelphia Water Department, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, Fairmount Park Conservancy, and USDA Forest Service. The Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia is serving as the fiscal administrator.

Hinge Collective’s team of consultant partners include Azavea, SavATree, Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, Little Giant Creative, Rising Sons, Glen Environmental, Sahar Coston-Hardy Photography, and Herb White.

Project Team 

The urban forest strategic plan process is being led by a project team composed of representatives from City agencies, local non-profit organizations, universities, and state and federal government agencies.

  • Lori Hayes, Director of Urban Forestry, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
  • Tom Witmer, Operations Manager, Natural Lands, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
  • Christine Knapp, Director, Philadelphia Office of Sustainability
  • Saleem Chapman, Chief Resilience Officer, Philadelphia Office of Sustainability
  • Mason Austin, Senior Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission
  • Stephanie Chiorean, Environmental Staff Scientist and Planner, Green Stormwater Infrastructure Unit, Philadelphia Water Department
  • Elizabeth Svekla, Planning Manager, Green Stormwater Infrastructure Unit, Philadelphia Water Department
  • Nagiarry Porcéna-Ménéus, Program Manager, Philadelphia Commerce Department
  • Daniel P. Mullin, Site Improvement Coordinator, Office of Capital Programs, The School District of Philadelphia
  • Allison Schapker, Director of Capital Projects, Fairmount Park Conservancy
  • Lindsey Walker, Volunteer & Environmental Program Manager, Fairmount Park Conservancy
  • Luke Rhodes, Project Manager, Fairmount Park Conservancy
  • Dana Dentice, Trees Program Manager, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
  • Casey Kuklick, Director of Strategy, Planning, and Partnerships, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
  • Jason Lubar, Associate Director of Urban Forestry, Morris Arboretum
  • Rachel Reyna, Section Chief, Rural and Community Forestry, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry
  • Jason Swartz, TreeVitalize Program Manager, PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry
  • Lara Roman, Research Ecologist, USDA Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station
  • Max Piana, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Massachusetts, USDA Forest Service Philadelphia Field Station
  • Bill Elmendorf, Joseph Ibberson Professor of Community and Urban Forestry, Penn State University

Project Lead: Erica Smith Fichman, Community Forestry Manager, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation (erica.smith@phila.gov)

There will also be a Steering Committee formed, composed of community stakeholders, City and regional agencies, and non-profit organizations involved in urban forestry. The Steering Committee will be responsible for providing feedback and input at critical milestones to guide the direction of the project and help create an effective plan.

Project Sponsors 

Philadelphia’s urban forest strategic plan is supported by the William Penn Foundation, TD Bank, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. 

Get involved! 

Sign up to receive email updates about the planning process.

Explore the tree canopy change data on the interactive map.

Get a free yard tree.