EASTON, PA – September 19, 2023 – Last week, the City of Easton was notified that it had been selected among 385 recipients to receive a $1 million grant, the largest in the Commonwealth outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the purposes of expanding the city’s urban canopy via increased tree planting as well as to support the maintenance of the existing urban forest. This grant, following an application by the city’s Department of Community & Economic Development and approval by the USDA’s Forest Service, will also establish a five-year urban forest apprenticeship under the city’s Conservation Manager Robert Christopher.
Mayor Salvatore J. Panto, Jr. celebrated the selection of the city’s Easton Urban Forestry Equity Project and the historic investment by the USDA, particularly in underserved areas of the community like the West Ward and sections of the South Side.
“In addition to providing shade in the summer and protection from wintery elements, trees also provide the oxygen that sustains humanity and makes our city more livable,” said Mayor Panto. “We thank our federal partners for recognizing the value of urban trees and for creating and maintaining green spaces for Easton residents. With climate change giving us more severe heat in the summer, we all can appreciate the shade of a healthy tree and the cool breezes they generate.”
The city’s project will have three primary goals:
- Expanding the City’s Urban Canopy: Areas of the city’s West Ward and Downtown benefit from green spaces like the Lehigh Canal or the Historic Easton Cemetery. Away from these spaces, however, these neighborhoods tend to have poor tree cover. For instance, Northampton Street in the West Ward is, on average, 10 degrees warmer than the nearby Easton Cemetery. This component of the project will involve tree giveaways to both residents and non-profit stewards of the city’s green spaces, result in more trees planted in city-owned facilities and parks, and expand the existing planting program. As noted in the city’s application, just 100 new trees in Easton would, over the course of 20 years, sequester 20 tons of carbon dioxide, remove 1/8 of a ton of pollution from the air, mitigate 75,000 gallons of runoff, and generate $20,000 in savings and services to the city, as well as raise property values by thousands of dollars.
- Maintain the City’s Existing Urban Forest: This element of the program will utilize funding to combat invasive species, trim trees, and remove and replace sick or dead trees. New trees, unlike some older tree plantings, will follow a “right tree, right place” philosophy in order to avoid damaging or interfering with the surrounding environment.
- Establishing Urban Forester Apprenticeship: This individual, working under the Conservation Manager, will assist with a variety of services to build and maintain the urban treescape.
This project, with funding made possible through the Inflation Reduction Act, will result in increased shade from expansion of the city’s tree canopy. The submission was designed with a variety of plans in mind, including the Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan and federal initiatives such as Justice40, as well as more local plans including the Pennsylvania Forest Plan and the Easton Climate Action Plan. As noted by the USDA, “Studies show that trees in communities are associated with improved physical and mental health, lower average temperatures during extreme heat, and increased food security, and create new economic opportunities.”
Christopher, the city’s Conservation Manager, applauded the receipt of this grant. “Receiving this grant award will create a monumental shift in our ability to transform areas within the city where we have been struggling to increase the urban canopy and reduce and eliminate hazardous trees. This USDA Grant will emphasize to our residents how serious we are in our commitment to Climate Resiliency and Environmental Equity.”
The first stages of the program, which include identification of applicable tree locations and the bidding of tree trimming/removal and stump grinding, are anticipated to begin in the spring of 2024, with the program projected to conclude in the fall of 2028. Throughout its duration, the Equity Project will seek to solicit the feedback of homeowners and employ increased signage to educate residents on the environmental and financial benefits of street trees.
Learn more about the announcement on the USDA Forest Service web site here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/urban-forests/ucf/2023-grant-funding
Information provided to TVL by:
City of Easton Marketing Consultant