Group planting trees in St. Paul to close gap in tree inequalities

Dozens of trees were being planted in St. Paul on Saturday, as a group works to make strides to close the gap in green for disadvantaged communities.

Recent studies have found that communities of color have 33 percent less tree canopy compared to majority-white neighborhoods. In St. Paul, by the end of the weekend, community group Frogtown Green will have planted 70 trees in parts of the city where tree cover is sparse and hot summer days are outright uncomfortable for some.

"This is part of the solution… planting trees everywhere," said planter Dale Howey.

Over the last 30 years, Dale Howey has certainly done his part, getting his hands dirty planting thousands of trees. On Saturday, he was busy with a shovel at Maxx La Tourelle's St. Paul home, bringing new life to the block to improve the lives of many who live on it.

"We saw a little note on the door and they say, ‘hey we’re giving away trees in the neighborhood,’" said La Tourelle.

In La Tourelle's neck of the woods, St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, homeowners have the least tree cover in all of St. Paul, at just 22 percent.

"In the back where we have the big tree and it’s shaded versus in the front where we don’t really have any shade, you can tell on a daily basis it’s warmer up front," said La Tourelle.

"Neighborhoods like Frogtown, Midway neighborhood, those areas are very hot on a hot day because there’s less tree cover," said Metropolitan Council Planning Analyst Eric Wojchik.

Experts say the lack of green hurts communities of color the most. "It’s shown that people that are primarily lower income and minorities have less tree cover, less park areas," added Howey.

According to Wojchik, 34 percent tree cover is ideal and only miles away the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood tops that at 37 percent – which can make all the difference on the hottest days of the year.

"Sometimes by 15 degrees on a hot day it’s a big difference," explained Wojchik.

But now, this investment of time and energy has the potential for big returns for the environment and our wallets.

"For every dollar, you spend on that tree, you get seven dollars’ worth of benefits; and those are public health benefits, heating, and cooling of your house benefits," said Wojchik.