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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Equitable Ecology

New forest alliance looks to balance the city’s beautification efforts

As Evansville’s urban landscape ideals evolve, underserved neighborhoods sometimes have been left behind. As of February, four agencies have joined forces to create the Evansville Forest Alliance, which will help beautify these communities.

EFA will take a community-driven approach to urban revitalization. By planting native tree species, EFA hopes to address socio-economic imbalances between neighborhoods and promote ecological resiliency.

The alliance took two years of planning between Wesselman Woods, Community One Inc., the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and the City of Evansville’s Arborist Shawn Dickerson and Climate Action Director Lauren Norvell.

“While many cities in the 1990s focused on tree planting, unfortunately, it didn’t catch on in Evansville. We need to work overtime to get a dense and productive urban canopy started,” says Zach Garcia, executive director of Wesselman Woods, which is leading the initiative.

IDNR jump-started the initiative with a $249,000 grant. Local organizers will work with the state to identify locations for improvement, iron out logistics, and engage the community through education, outreach, and possibly employment.

Tepe Park on Evansville’s South Side and Goosetown near Haynie’s Corner Arts District are slated for the first plantings this fall.

“The City of Evansville has many disadvantaged ‘under-canopied’ neighborhoods where residents suffer more from extreme heat, high energy costs, and air pollution,” Norvell said in a press release. “Increasing urban green space and tree canopy in the neighborhoods that need it most will ensure the resulting health and climate benefits are felt by everyone.”

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