Local officials, Dynegy, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) leaders, and the Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School recently planted 13 trees along the Ontario Street side of the school campus in North Philadelphia for Earth Day.

The event was apart of the Dynegy Trees for Growth program, which will add 100 trees to the school campus and another 25 trees on streets adjacent to or near Bethune.

Prior to the project, the census tract that includes Bethune had tree canopy coverage of 6.79 percent, far below the city of Philadelphia’s goal of 30 percent in every neighborhood.

“Enlarging the tree canopy on campus benefits Bethune scholars, staff and faculty and our community,” said Bethune Principal Aliya Catanch-Bradley. “The addition of the 100 trees helps us to literally begin to breathe again both physically and mentally.

“This project will support the ability of our children to play in shade and encourage our children to have more outdoor activity, which they need desperately,” she added. “The Bethune Bears are proud to support and be supportive of the efforts to build our local tree canopy through Dynegy Trees for Growth.”

Brad Watson, senior director of community affairs for Dynegy, said by adding 125 trees in and around Bethune it will help mitigate extreme heat in the community.

“The immediate benefits include more shade relief in a neighborhood where temperatures are regularly 4 degrees higher than Philadelphia’s average,” Watson said. “Long-term, we are hopeful that growing trees will also grow young minds, as studies show greening has the potential to help advance academic achievement in urban schools.”

The Earth Day tree planting event at Bethune follows the December 2020 planting of seven trees at the school. The Bethune planting is a signature event for PHS, which is planting 950 trees in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania during this Earth Month and leading into Arbor Day.

Working with more than 75 of its regional Tree Tender groups and community organizations in addition to hundreds of neighborhood volunteers, over 80 unique tree planting events will span the 10-county region.

The partnership between Dynegy, PHS and Bethune began in summer 2020 when more than a dozen members of the Bethune School community, including students, teachers and local neighbors, participated in tree planting and stewardship workshops to become a PHS-certified Tree Tender.

“Our PHS Tree Tender program provides the framework for a collaborative and inclusive project that ensures the long-term stewardship and sustainability of this expanding tree canopy,” said PHS associate director of Trees Tim Ifill.

“The Dynegy Trees for Growth initiative is a critical step within our larger efforts in North Philadelphia, including the Nicetown and Tioga neighborhoods, where PHS continues to work with communities on the cleanup and maintenance of vacant lots, as well as helping to plan future public green spaces to include trees.”

chill@phillytrib.com. 215-893-5716

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