Trees and Shade Subcommittee moving ahead with goals

Piper Plaza at St. Mary’s Basilica on April 6, 2018. (Sarabeth Henne/DD)

The Urban Heat Island/Trees and Shade Subcommittee is working toward its goal to increase shade in downtown Phoenix.

The subcommittee’s 2010 Phoenix Tree and Shade Master Plan states that it is working toward creating “a healthier, more livable and prosperous 21st Century desert city” by increasing the city’s tree canopy to 25% by the year 2030.

The purpose increasing the canopy is not to shade the entire city, but rather to shade the areas where people are moving around outdoors, said City of Phoenix Chief Sustainability Officer Mark Hartman, and doing so is in the best interest of the community.

“(Shade) increases property value, it cleans the air, it is actually cooler in areas where there are trees and shade,” Hartman said.

In fact, 85% of residents surveyed by city staff said they would walk more often if there were shaded pathways to their homes and nearby stores, according to Hartman.

Added shade may benefit Arizona State University students as well, who walk outside to get between classes.

ASU student Sabrina Kenoun agreed with the 85%, saying that she is more willing to walk to class when there is shade along her route.

“I love the trees on my way to class,” Kenoun said. “I don’t feel the need to drive because I feel comfortable with them there, especially in the summer.”

In order to work toward the master plan’s goal, the subcommittee created a  recommendation for the Environmental Quality and Sustainability Committee last month.

They recommended that there be a tree administrator, “one of the most crucial aspects” of the proposal, according to Trees Matter Executive Director and subcommittee member Aimee Esposito, as well as a separate committee outside of the Environmental Quality and Sustainability Committee.

The new committee which would “check in and provide advice and also give a platform for setting agendas,” said Esposito.

The subcommittee also recommended mandates for specific tree-related activities regarding planning and zoning, however, the main focus now is creating the tree administrator position and the secondary committee, said Esposito.

The subcommittee is also in the process of creating a portal where people can donate money for the tree-planting process, as over 50% of people said they would donate money to plant trees, according to Hartman.

“We got over 1,200 responses, so it was actually a good number of people who really believed in this,” Hartman said.

Kenoun agreed, saying that she would be willing to donate money if it meant she could walk comfortably in the shade around the downtown Phoenix area.

The subcommittee plans to go to City Council in about a month to get approval to receive donations from the public for tree planting projects throughout the city, Hartman said.

Esposito encourages citizens to come to budget meetings and speak with local government about trees and shade.

“A lot of people feel as though they may not be able to do as much as they’d like and local government is a place where you can really act,” Esposito said. “This is a great time if you really care about trees to let our government know.”

Contact the reporter at [email protected]