In March 2003, a partnership between the USDA Forest Service, American Forests, Inc, and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) produced a study that estimates the five-county Philadelphia region lost 8% of its heavy tree cover (34,000 acres) over the past 15 years. This loss impacts municipalities, neighborhoods and homeowners through increased stormwater runoff, lower air quality and increased energy costs. Additional research shows that tree cover can positively impact the social and economic environment.
In response to the need to replace tree cover in the region, DCNR established a new, broad-based partnership to accomplish this large task. In January 2004, TreeVitalize began its efforts towards a goal of planting 20,000 shade trees over a four-year period to restore 1,000 acres of forest in riparian and source water protection areas. Trees were planted along streets to help control stormwater, as well as to shade buildings and paved areas. The program also helped to establish riparian buffers along several segments of local streams.
Riparian buffers are highly effective at protecting a stream from the impacts of stormwater runoff. They provide the following benefits to water quality: reduce nutrient and pesticide runoff into water bodies by up to 50%; reduce sediment deposits into streams by up to 75%; reduce pathogen (disease causing organisms) deposits into streams by up to 60%; control erosion of soil by wind and rain; improve water infiltration into groundwater; reduce instances of flooding downstream; and cool stream temperatures, which provides habitat for aquatic life.
Since its inception, the TreeVitalize program has met its original goal and has expanded statewide, setting a new goal of planting 1 million trees in Pennsylvania communities by 2014.
Watershed: Schuylkill River
TreeVitalize has installed plantings at many sites in the five-county region.
Fairmount Park Commission
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association
Penn State Cooperative Extension
As of 2009, $5.2 million has been committed to this project by these funding partners:
Aqua Pennsylvania, Inc.
Office of Representative Dwight Evans
PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
PA Department of Environmental Protection
US Forest Service
William Penn Foundation
TreeVitalize/PA Horticultural Society
100 N. 20th Street, 5th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103