Built Environment

Bridgeport, CT
United States

Social media handle(s)
@groundworkbridgeport (Instagram), @GroundworkBPT (Instagram)

Analyzed tree distribution and canopy cover in communities with low incomes to address tree equity through improved stewardship and expanded plantings in Bridgeport.  

In Bridgeport’s low-income communities and communities of color, there is a disparity in the distribution of trees and the canopy that they provide. This lack of tree equity poses a public health concern for residents, as trees affect respiratory, cardiovascular, and mental health. Trees 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— inventoried street trees in four city neighborhoods, targeting areas with the most significant environmental justice needs.

The tree inventory built on a pilot project launched with support from the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Groundwork Bridgeport worked with over 20 local paid community members, most of whom were students, living in the communities of Downtown, the Hollow, East End, and East Side. Through the Tree Patrol Program, Groundwork Bridgeport provided these community members with the necessary tools and training for measuring tree distribution and health. The data-collection process involved measuring tree diameter at breast height; identifying trees using the Seek app; and noting signs of damage, pest, and disease. This information was compiled into a publicly available map that includes the species and other descriptives of every street tree in the target geographic area (users may need to create a free account to view the data).

The tree inventory will serve Groundwork Bridgeport and the City of Bridgeport to direct their natural stewardship efforts more efficiently, as they now have a better understanding of which trees need to be watered, pruned, treated, or removed. Groundwork also found that lower tree canopy levels coincide with neighborhoods that have more residents with lower incomes. The data helped to identify general areas of need and opportunities for future tree plantings to increase tree count, increase tree diversity, and expand canopies. Groundwork also plans to continue working with Bridgeport’s tree warden to support the city’s efforts to plant more trees. 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.