Analyzing tree distribution and canopy cover in communities with low incomes to address tree equity through improved stewardship and expanded plantings in Bridgeport.
Bridgeport’s low-income communities and communities of color have a lower distribution of trees and canopy coverage than whiter and more well-resourced areas of the city. This lack of tree equity poses a public health concern for residents, as trees affect respiratory, cardiovascular, and mental health. They can also reduce ambient summer temperatures when cities experience intense heat, which is amplified by the urban heat island effect. To better understand the city’s tree canopy and to facilitate more effective tree stewardship and plantings in the future, Groundwork Bridgeport—an organization that engages youth to improve environmental conditions—will inventory street trees in four city neighborhoods, targeting areas with the most significant environmental justice needs.
The tree inventory will build on a pilot project launched with support from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Groundwork Bridgeport will work with paid local youth residing in the communities of Downtown, the Hollow, East End, and East Side and provide them with necessary tools and training for measuring tree distribution and health. Data collection will involve measuring tree height and diameter; identifying trees using the Seek app; and noting signs of damage, pests, and disease. Groundwork Bridgeport will ultimately compile this information in a publicly available map describing every street tree in the target geographic areas.
The findings will allow Groundwork Bridgeport and the City of Bridgeport to direct their natural stewardship efforts more efficiently, as they will have a better understanding of which trees need to be watered, pruned, treated, or removed. Moreover, the data will help identify general areas of need and opportunities for future tree plantings to both increase tree count and expand canopies. In the long term, the project will encourage youth to become more engaged in urban forestry, fostering greater urban greenery and neighborhoods that are healthier, happier, and more connected.