Exploring residents’ preferences for urban tree plantings

Authors: Alicia Coleman*, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Robert L. Ryan, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Theodore S. Eisenman, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Joana Goncalves, University of Porto, Richard Harper, University of Massachusetts, Dexter Locke, U.S. Forest Service
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Environmental Perception
Keywords: urban trees, tree planting campaign, environmental stewardship, landscape preference, urban design
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban tree planting programs are a popular tactic to expand tree canopy cover in cities, especially in areas with fewer trees. Municipalities and non-governmental organizations are now organizing and leading tree planting programs, but it is unclear if they can ensure the survival of new trees promised to targeted neighborhoods. Residents are often sought after to fill this managerial role, in hopes that they accrue a stewardship ethic that can increase tree survival. In addition, the limited available space in cities necessitates planting on private, residential yards essential to meet urban canopy cover goals. If the survival of new tree plantings is dependent on residents’ attitudes and interest, it is important to understand the specific motivations and concerns that constrain residents’ participation in the tree planting programs and influence tree stewardship.

In Massachusetts, a state-led program is targeting residents of environmental justice neighborhoods to plant and maintain new shade trees, aiming to reduce home energy bills. Using a landscape preference survey, we researched residents’ willingness to plant new trees in their yard, their attitudes about different trees, and their concerns for tree maintenance. Participants were recruited at public locations and events in targeted environmental justice neighborhoods. Initial findings point to the need to bridge the desires of high-level organizations with the values of residents. Also, it will be important to address spatial, temporal, or functional scale mismatches between tree stewardship actors in order to ensure the survival of thousands of new trees planted in cities every year.

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