City Tree Planting Program

Why Our Tree Planting Program Matters

Trees provide many valuable benefits to our residents. They shade our streets during the summer, clean our air and water, provide wildlife habitat, improve our mental wellbeing, and much more. 

According to our street tree inventory, Open Tree Map, Durham’s street trees provide $682,000 (2020 estimate) in annual benefits to our community through lower energy bills for residents, increased walkability because of shade provided during our hot summers, reduced noise pollution, stormwater filtration, improved air quality, and carbon dioxide removed as indicated in the table to the right. 

In addition to this, an internal analysis using the U.S. Forest Services’ iTree tool determined the value of trees in our City parks, cemeteries, and medians. The study found that trees in these public spaces remove approximately $1.4 million worth of carbon annually, which helps mitigate climate change. 

For these reasons it is important that we maintain a healthy urban forest. An effective tree planting program ensures that our urban forest remains vigorous for our present and future residents to enjoy.

Right: Estimated ecosystem services of Durham’s street trees according to the City of Durham’s Tree Inventory software, Open Tree Map. 

List of annual eco benefits provided by trees

Tree Planting Project Summary

Our goal is to plant 1,500 new street trees in City rights-of-way every year through 2025. The main goal of our planting project is to expand our street tree canopy into historically underserved and low-tree canopy neighborhoods as well as to replace unhealthy street trees removed each year. The number of trees being planted each year was determined from a 2017 Tree Canopy Assessment completed by Savatree and the University of Vermont. This study recommended that we plant 1,500 street trees per year in order to maintain and increase our street tree canopy in Durham.

A second 2018 study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggested tree planting locations in our City rights-of-way that could maximize the benefits of trees to our residents. The study identified eight neighborhood groups through the U.S. Census that could benefit the most from street trees through increased shade and walkability, reduced air pollution, and targeted benefits to disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. A minimum of 85% of the 1,500 street trees we plan to plant each year will be going into these identified neighborhood groups with the hope of increasing environmental equity in Durham. The remaining 15% of tree plantings will be prioritized based upon replacement of unhealthy trees as well as resident requests, site suitability, and logistical concerns.

Right: This 2018 Tree Planting Prioritization Map was provided to the City of Durham by the U.S. EPA outlining eight Census Block Neighborhood Groups where we should focus our tree planting efforts.  

Map showing priority neighborhoods for project

City Tree Planting Project Contributors (2020-2021)

Our 2020-2021 tree planting season is made possible in part by support and contributions from the following organizations:

Streetside Unplanted Trees
Augur Drilling Hole
Streetside Planted Trees
Downtown New Trees
Durham Central Park Trees
Durham Central Park Tree Planting