City: Let tree-dom ring

TreePhilly , with 4,000 of them to hand out and plant, free of charge, probably has a tree with your name on it.
TreePhilly , with 4,000 of them to hand out and plant, free of charge, probably has a tree with your name on it.
Posted: February 14, 2012

AT HIS inauguration party, Mayor Nutter rapped with The Roots, and today he's branching out to offer 4,000 free trees to Philadelphians in shade-challenged neighborhoods.

You'd be a sap not to take him up on it.

The city's Parks & Recreation Department kicks off its TreePhilly yard-tree giveaway today as part of the mayor's Greenworks Philadelphia goal of adding 300,000 trees to the city's existing 2.1 million by 2015 to increase the city's tree canopy to 30 percent by 2025.

The 45,000 to 55,000 trees that have been planted during Nutter's first term count toward the goal.

Wells Fargo is contributing $75,000 as TreePhilly's sponsor.

To get a free tree, you must be a Philadelphia resident and own your property.

Go online to treephilly.org or call 215-683-0217 to register for a small or a large tree. Either way, these are baby trees, so you won't be ready for that hammock for years.

Species include flowering dogwood, crab apple, sweet bay magnolia, serviceberry and sour cherry trees, all of which eventually reach 25 to 30 feet; and sugar maple, river birch and oak trees, which grow to 70 to 80 feet.

In April, an expert will help new tree-tenders pick a species that will do well in their yards.

Although TreePhilly is citywide, it's targeting West Oak Lane, Tioga, Old Kensington, Frankford, Morrell Park, South Philadelphia, Whitman and Haddington because they have the greatest tree-canopy needs and are in the Philadelphia Water Department's combined sewer-overflow area.

"TreePhilly is about involving individual citizens in restoring Philadelphia's tree canopy," said Michael DiBerardinis, deputy mayor for environmental and community resources. "We have to engage many more citizens in a much more direct way than we have in the past."

DeBerardinis drew a line in the soil between past and present tree-planting strategies.

"Years ago, people would plant trees with no sense of whether the tree lived or not," he said.

"A kid comes home from school with a twig in a Styrofoam cup and puts it on the kitchen counter, and somehow that gets counted as a tree planted.

"Our tree planters will be trained - how to dig the hole, how to water during a drought - and that will really beat down the mortality rate," he said. "So our numbers are real."

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