(Daniel X. O'Neil/Flickr)
Cleveland is among the 248 Tree City USA cities in Ohio.
Besides providing shade and looking nice, experts say trees are a vital element of livable communities.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day, an annual national holiday recognizing the importance of trees.
Elizabeth Grace, director of urban fundraising for the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in Cleveland, is working with local partners to bring the city's tree canopy up from 18% to 30% coverage. She explained a healthy canopy offers myriad benefits, including improved air quality and lower energy costs.
"They actually reduce temperatures on high-heat days which significantly impacts under-resourced urban neighborhoods," Grace noted. "They reduce stress and improve mental health. They also actually lessen violence in communities. And it's been shown in recent studies that more trees raise the IQ of children."
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced new legislation this week dubbed the "Neighborhood Trees Act of 2022." It aims to create more urban forests and reduce disparities.
Research suggests urban neighborhoods with people of color have one-third less tree cover than majority-white neighborhoods, and low-income neighborhoods have 41% less tree canopy than higher-income areas.
Tyler Stevenson, urban forestry program manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which assists hundreds of municipalities in the development and management of urban forestry programs, explained it is a long-term process, involving limiting conflicts and reducing susceptibility to catastrophic losses.
"A lot of our communities face pressure from development, pressure from invasive insects and diseases, pressure from extreme weather," Stevenson pointed out. "But we have individuals in all of our communities that are dedicated to ensuring that all of our citizens have adequate tree canopy equally across the community."
Stevenson added 248 Ohio cities are now part of the Arbor Day Foundation's
Tree City USA initiative. And today, communities will celebrate Arbor Day with tree plantings, seedling distributions, nature walks and other events.