Trees Matter nonprofit puts down roots downtown, aims to increase the Valley’s tree canopy

Trees Matter, formerly known as the Valley Permaculture Alliance, moved downtown with the mission of increasing the Valley's tree canopy. (Photo Illustration by Nathan Thrash/DD)

With concrete and other urban features driving up temperatures downtown, environmentalist group Trees Matter is working to reduce the urban heat effect by increasing the tree canopy across the Valley.  

Trees Matter, a nonprofit organization that specializes in public education and the distribution of trees, was formerly known as Valley Permaculture Alliance. Trees Matter operates under the mission to inspire, promote and increase the tree canopy in the valley, according to executive director Aimee Williamson.

“We decided to rebrand from Valley Permaculture Alliance to Trees Matter,” Williamson said. “We saw such a need to help increase and promote the tree canopy in the Valley.”

The changes also include a location change to downtown Phoenix. The new hub, located on the corner of McKinley Street and First Avenue at the McKinley Club, was created to increase advocacy of the tree canopy in the Phoenix metropolitan area.  Because of its new centralized location, Trees Matter will be more accessible to both the East and West Valley, according to Williamson. A launch party will be hosted at their new location on October 5. 

The Valley Permaculture Alliance was a holistic organization that educated students about gardening, water harvesting and urban livestock in the Valley of the Sun. The goal was to teach students to work with what they have in the environment. 

In addition, they hosted events such as the Tour de Coops, an event where a display of different chicken coops across the Valley was showcased. They also had a seed library that was open to the public.

The lack of access to either a homestead or plot of land makes it hard to implement permaculture values to the community, according to Williamson. The tree program started at the Valley Permaculture Alliance received great support from the community. 

Since then, programs formerly run by the Valley Permaculture Alliance have been passed on to other organizations to run. The seed library is now run by the Mollen Foundation, a fellow member of the McKinley club that focuses on preventing childhood obesity.

Trees Matter tree program manager Danielle Corral said concerns about the urban heat effect is a driving initiative of Trees Matter. The urban heat effect occurs when the temperature is higher within a city or metropolitan area than surrounding cities due to increased urbanization in a concentrated area.

“As Phoenix grows we have more concrete, more development – cutting down trees, getting rid of lawns because of water concerns so our temperature keeps going up,” Corral said.

Trees Matter volunteer coordinator Ariel Stone said to increase the tree canopy, Trees Matter partnered with the Salt River Project to run a program called the Shade Tree Program, where they distribute free shade trees to residences across the valley. The program, which started when they were still the Valley Permaculture Alliance, distributes more than 5,000 trees per year.   

The nonprofit organization is working to develop a tree directory so that patrons can find the right tree that suits their own lifestyle. This directory will provide information to patrons that describes the type of tree, how much maintenance is needed to maintain its health and where to locate a nursery that grows the tree.

“Right tree, right place, right person,” Williamson said. “Usually you hear right tree, right place to the tree industry but I think it’s also about the person.”

In conjunction with their canopy mission, Trees Matter also runs an Edible Tree Committee initiative that teaches people about the harvest schedule and where to locate edible trees.

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