East Oak Lane, William Penn’s first neighborhood, is often called a “Green Country Town” and if you’ve taken a trip to this area, you would understand why.
Most of the neighborhood’s streets are lined with beautiful, large trees, some of which have been there for decades, others purposely planted by a group of people who call this neighborhood home.
The Oak Lane Tree Tenders, led by resident Charles Philips (above), devotes weekends to planting trees and rehabilitating green areas within the neighborhood. The work is not being done just for aesthetics, the group believes trees add value to a community in many ways.
Researchers have found there are many benefits of having trees in a neighborhood: they have positive effects on your health, neighborhood activity, and even your pockets. In fact, according to treepeople.org, living in an area with a large number of trees visible from residents’ windows helps them heal better and faster from illnesses.
“Trees do a lot for us,” said Christina Rosan, an associate professor of geography and urban studies at Temple University. “We really need more trees. Particularly in low-income communities because they are the communities lacking trees. Also, in neighborhoods that have a lot of trees, there is reduced crime.”
In 2012, the Landscape and Urban Planning Journal published a report written by the University of Vermont which found that a 10 percent increase in tree canopy was directly correlated with a 12 percent decrease in crime in Baltimore City.
If that isn’t enough reason to advocate for the planting of trees in your neighborhood, the practice could also save you some money.
There is no denying that trees offer shade on the region’s hot summer days. And if you have enough of them in your neighborhood, you may find yourself spending less on your electric bill.
“Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent,” according to arborday.org.
Trees can also add value to your home when you are ready to sale and relocate.
“A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000,” according to Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.
As for the Tree Tenders of Oak Lane, knowing that members are bringing something to the neighborhood that will benefit the community helps keep this nearly 20-year-old organization going.
The Tree Tenders program is a part of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. PHS not only connects Tree Tenders to resources needed to help with its efforts, but it also provides training for individuals interested in becoming a Tree Tender.
“They teach the community how to take care of things themselves,” said Sally McCabe, a member of the Oak Lane Tree Tenders who has also worked for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for 30 years. “When you teach people those kinds of skills, you are not just teaching them gardening or tree care skills, but skills that can be used in different ways in their lives.”
Philip’s group is comprised of about 25 active members. They meet about seven times per year between September and November, taking a break for the holidays before resuming in January through May. At their meetings, members plan out their next tree planting activities and think of other ways that they can help their community.
“These are particular areas of our interest,” Phillips said. “We planted most of the trees at the library and a number of trees at Ellwood.
“We will also work with Oak Lane Community Action Association at the bridge that overpasses Godfrey Avenue around 8th Street.”
During the time that the Oak Lane Tree Tenders has been active, it has planted more than 800 trees. The group hopes that this number will only get larger as time goes on.
Philips, who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 50 years, worries that the look of the neighborhood will change if tree planting does not continue.
“Someday, the trees we’ve planted will die and we won’t have a green neighborhood anymore,” he said. “We really need to do something about that.”
For more information about the Oak Lane Tree Tenders, contact Philips at email@example.com.
— Text, video and images by Talore McBride.