Greening Southside Richmond Project Battles Heat and Injustice

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation today announced a $227,467 grant to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and local partners for a two-year Greening Southside Richmond Project. This major initiative will aim to plant more than 650 trees in neighborhoods facing extreme heat linked to racially-motivated housing. The new project will also train local youth for green jobs, transform asphalt into green space at Branch’s Baptist Church, and cool some of the hottest neighborhoods in Richmond that are currently up to 16 degrees hotter than tree-covered parts of the city.

CBF used the Richmond Office of Sustainability’s Climate Equity Index map to identify southside census tracts where green space is most needed to reduce heat and improve the health of residents. Residents in these census tracts are 86% African American and Hispanic. The link between extreme heat and redlining is documented in a recent study (HERE) by the Science Museum of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Portland State University.

The work in the project is set to begin in late 2020 and will be completed by early 2023. The $227,467 federal NFWF grant will be boosted by more than $80,000 in matching funds from local supporters. Partners in Greening Southside Richmond include CBF, the City of Richmond, Groundwork RVA, Southside ReLeaf, Branch’s Baptist Church, True Timber Arborists, Inc., Virginia Department of Forestry, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s College of Humanities and Sciences Department of Biology.

The city’s departments of Public Utilities and Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities will identify city property for planting trees. The project will contribute to the City of Richmond’s goal of increasing city-wide tree canopy to 60% and achieving a 30% tree canopy in all neighborhoods, prioritizing areas with a high heat vulnerability index rating and low tree canopy coverage.

“It’s remarkable how over time trees can transform a blazing hot concrete expanse into a cool, leafy oasis. You can just feel the difference on a summer day within Richmond when you go from parts of Southside to the West End,” said CBF Director of Outreach and Advocacy Ann Jurczyk. “Trees not only reduce air and water pollution, they improve health and save lives by dramatically cooling neighborhoods. Greening Southside is a step towards a greener, more beautiful, and more equitable Richmond.”

Photo by Kenny Fletcher 

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